The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill

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Penguin, Apr 25, 2006 - Psychology - 288 pages
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As acclaimed psychological researcher and author David Buss writes, "People are mesmerized by murder. It commands our attention like no other human phenomenon, and those touched by its ugly tendrils never forget." Though we may like to believe that murderers are pathological misfits and hardened criminals, the vast majority of murders are committed by people who, until the day they kill, would seem to be perfectly normal.

David Buss's pioneering work has made major national news in the past, and this provocative book is sure to generate a storm of attention. The Murderer Next Door is a riveting look into the dark underworld of the human psyche—an astonishing exploration of when and why we kill and what might push any one of us over the edge. A leader in the innovative field of evolutionary psychology, Buss conducted an unprecedented set of studies investigating the underlying motives and circumstances of murders, from the bizarre outlier cases of serial killers to those of the friendly next-door neighbor who one day kills his wife.

Reporting on findings that are often startling and counterintuitive—the younger woman involved in a love triangle is at a high risk of being killed—he puts forth a bold new general theory of homicide, arguing that the human psyche has evolved specialized adaptations whose function is to kill. Taking readers through the surprising twists and turns of the evolutionary logic of murder, he explains exactly when each of us is most at risk, both of being murdered and of becoming a murderer. His findings about the high-risk situations alone will be news making.

Featuring gripping storytelling about specific murder cases—including a never used FBI file of more than 400,000 murders and a highly detailed study of 400 murders conducted by Buss in collaboration with a forensic psychiatrist, and a pioneering investigation of homicidal fantasies in which Buss found that 91 percent of men and 84 percent of women have had at least one such vivid fantasy—The Murderer Next Door will be necessary reading for those who have been fascinated by books on profiling, lovers of true crime and murder mysteries, as well as readers intrigued by the inner workings of the human mind.

 

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The murderer next door: why the mind is designed to kill

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Many of us have a macabre fascination with sociopathic killers. In addition to offering accounts of murders, these books purport to explain why people become murderers. Ramsland (forensic psychology ... Read full review

Contents

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PUZZLE
CRIMINAL PROFILING
MURDER IN MIND
THE EVOLUTIONARYPSYCHOLOGY PERSPECTIVE
THE COMPETITIVE LEGACY OF OUR ANCESTORS
THE HEATED COMPETITION OF SEXUAL SELECTION
HOW MATING PREFERENCES RELATE TO MURDER
WHAT MEN AND WOMEN WANT
THE SLINGS AND ARROWS OF STEPPARENTS
CINDERELLA STORIES
DO HUMANS HAVE ADAPTATIONS TO KILL STEPCHILDREN?
STEPCHILDRENS DEFENSES
WHEN KIDS KILL THEIR PARENTS
CAIN AND ABEL
THE EVOLUTIONARY LOGIC OF STATUS COMPETITION
KILLING THE COMPETITION

HOW WOMENS PREFERENCES DRIVE MEN
THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE
WHY WOMEN HAVE AFFAIRS
THE DANGERS OF A BROKEN HEART
THE COSTS OF CUCKOLDRY
WHICH MEN MURDER THEIR MATES
WOMENS DEFENSES AGAINST MURDEROUS MATES
INTIMATE SEXUAL PREDATORS
WOMENS HOMICIDAL FANTASIES
STALKERS AS SEXUAL PREDATORS
RAPISTS AS SEXUAL PREDATORS
TACTICS USED BY MATE POACHERS
DIFFERENT MOTIVES FOR MATE POACHING
THE DANGERS OF MATE POACHING
MATE POACHERS BEWARE
SANCTIONED MURDER OF MATE POACHERS
WHY PARENTS MURDER THEIR CHILDREN
REPUTATION HONOR AND MACHO MALE MURDER
SEXUAL REPUTATION
A BLAZE OF GLORY
KILLING TO GET TO THE TOP
NATURALBORN KILLERS
MORAL DILEMMAS
MURDEROUS MINDS IN THE MODERN WORLD
MANAGING THE MURDERING MIND
THE MURDERING MIND
THE DANGEROUS GAME OF MATING
WHEN LOVE KILLS
SEXUAL PREDATORS
MATE POACHERS
BLOOD AND WATER
STATUS AND REPUTATION
THE KILLERS AMONG US
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

 David Buss is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. His path-breaking research has received extensive media coverage, including features in Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and he has appeared on Dateline, 20/20, the Today show, and CBS This Morning. His books include The Evolution of Desire and The Dangerous Passion.

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