A Profoundly Traumatic Experience

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

Killing in close combat is a profoundly traumatic experience David Grossman (On Killing) claims:

Years of research in this field have convinced me that there is a powerful resistance in most individuals to killing their fellow human beings. I have become equally convinced that there is a set of circumstances and pressures that can cause most human beings to overcome this resistance.

The factors that overcome this resistance are the same factors Milgram found in his infamous electric-shock experiments:

  1. Distance from the Victim
  2. Demands of Authority
  3. Group Absolution


  1. Handle says:

    Nah. This is just overreaching and playing to his intellectual audience. I think this ‘hesitation to fire’ trope is a myth.

    The traumas of the battlefield is mostly related to a variety of stressors, but not from the act of killing other people.

    Organized groups of men have been gleefully killing each other, mostly their closest-related near-neighbors, in hand-to-hand combat since the dawn of time, as have individual homicidal criminals. We see this in recorded history, without much sign of guilt, trauma, or remorse, and in pre-recorded history, through archaeological and genetic evidence.

    Men resist killing people they associate as belonging to the same group, and that’s about it.

  2. Toddy Cat says:

    I’ve never been in a situation where I had to kill, so I really can’t say, but I can’t help but believe that if humans really did have an innate resistance to killing, history wouldn’t be nearly as bloody as it is. And since Milgram’s experiment has pretty much been revealed to be tendentious crap, I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in anything that references his results.

  3. Alrenous says:

    Humans have an innate resistance to killing in a fair fight, exactly because they’re just as likely to kill you if you try. Ambushes and murder are different.

    Also, as per the Christmas Armistice, European hobbits see other European hobbits as being part of the same group.

Leave a Reply