Writing: People who kill

Obviously I’m not going to try and cover all the reasons a human being might kill another, just touch on two broad categories, and a general disclaimer when talking about anything to do with psyhology is that humans are very complicated. You’re a combinations of genes, environment, culture, experiences and about a million other small influences throughout your life, so you will find lots of exceptions to every rule. (This is tangentially related to some of my characters, so…)

You’ve probably heard about studies after WW2 that found the majority of US soldiers would not shoot to kill. This comes from
Men Against Fire

by S.L.A. Marshall, who interviewed hundreds of soldiers after the war and said that 75% of them wouldn’t shoot to kill even if directly threatened. Some have critcized Marshall’s figures, claiming that he exaggerated or made it up, but there have been other studies done on this going back to the US Civil War when a number of combatants reported having ‘trigger finger paralysis’.

Killing simply doesn’t come naturally to most people, and of people who do there are essentially two major types. The are of course the people who are simply psychopaths, but military studies identified another type – they were people who were, usually, older siblings. People who grew up with a strong sense of responsibility and would kill to protect those close to them, because of love.

So two very different types – people with no empathy at all, and people who actually care a lot. Militaries typically want the later, so it’s those who tend to be
honored with medals and such – they’re not given out usually just for killing lots of enemies, but for actions that save the lives of comrades.

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