Dave Grossman (author)

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David Allen Grossman (born 23 August 1956) is an American author who has specialized in the study of the psychology of killing (a discipline which he labels "killology").[1] He is a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army.


Grossman was born in Frankfurt, West Germany. His career includes service in the U.S. Army as a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division, a platoon leader in the 9th Infantry Division, a general staff officer, a company commander in the 7th (Light) Infantry Division as well as a paratrooper and graduate of Ranger School. He went on to become a professor of psychology at West Point. In February 1998, Grossman retired from the military as a professor of military science at Arkansas State University.[2]

As a civilian Grossman has served as an expert witness in numerous state and federal court cases and was part of the prosecution team of United States vs. Timothy McVeigh.[3]


Grossman's first book, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society is an analysis of the physiological processes involved with killing another human being. In it, he reveals evidence that most people have a phobia-level response to violence, and that soldiers need to be specifically trained to kill. In addition, he details the physical effects that violent stresses produce on humans, ranging from tunnel vision, changes in sonic perception, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Robert Engen, in a paper for the Canadian Military Journal critiquing On Killing, both praised and criticized Grossman's works, saying: "On Killing and On Combat form an excellent starting point, there are too many problems with their interpretation for them to be considered the final word on the subject."[4] Grossman's response to Engen, printed in the same journal, addresses the criticisms by showing that SLA Marshall's findings, even after having doubt cast on their methodology, have borne out in further scientific studies and real world experience[citation needed], and furthermore, have been the cornerstone of military and police training for over a half century.[5]

In Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence, Grossman argues that the techniques used by armies to train soldiers to kill are mirrored in certain types of video games. The conclusion he draws is that playing violent video games, particularly light gun shooters of the first-person shooter-variety (where the player holds a weapon-like game controller), train children in the use of weapons and, more importantly, harden them emotionally to the task of murder by simulating the killing of hundreds or thousands of opponents in a single typical video game. Grossman uses blunt language that draws the ire of gamers—during the heights of video game controversy, he was interviewed on the content of his books, and repeatedly used the term "murder simulator" to describe first-person shooter games.[6][7]

His third non-fiction book, On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace, is an extension of the first, intended to provide coping strategies for dealing with the physiological and psychological effects of violence for people forced to kill in their line of work (soldiers and police officers).[8]

Since his retirement from the Army, Grossman has founded the Killology Research Group and educates law enforcement officers and soldiers how to improve outcomes in lethal encounters. He also speaks at civilian events on ways to reduce violence in society and deal with the aftermath of violent events such as school shootings.[9]

Inciting significant controversy and anger, Grossman has been documented on video as claiming that when police kill on the job, they often report to him that they go home and enjoy their best sex ever.[10]




Entries in scholarly reference works[edit]

  • Grossman, D., "Aggression and Violence," in Oxford Companion to American Military History, Oxford Press, 2000.
  • Grossman, D., "Evolution of Weaponry," in Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict, Academic Press, 2000.
  • Grossman, D., & Siddle, B.K., "Psychological Effects of Combat," in Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict, Academic Press, 2000.
  • Murray, K.A., Grossman, D., & Kentridge, R.W., "Behavioral Psychology," in Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict, Academic Press, 2000.
  • Grossman, Dave, "Two Lessons from Jonesboro: Conducting Critical Incident Debriefings and the Role of Television in Feeding the Need for Enemies".


  1. ^ He has also never killed anyone. ASU bio Archived 27 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Biography: Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman – Killology Research Group". 2000. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  3. ^ Freeman, Sharon Morgillo; Moore, Bret A; Freeman, Arthur, eds. (3 June 2009). Living and Surviving in Harm's Way: A Psychological Treatment Handbook for Pre- and Post-Deployment of Military Personnel. Taylor & Francis. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-135-85934-3. 
  4. ^ Engen, Robert. "Killing for Their Country: A New Look At 'Killology'". Canadian Military Journal. 9 (2). Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. 
  5. ^ http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo9/no4/18-grossman-eng.asp
  6. ^ Crawford, Garry (4 August 2011). Video Gamers. Routledge. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-135-17887-1. 
  7. ^ Chalmers, Phil (2009). Inside the Mind of a Teen Killer. Thomas Nelson Inc. pp. 72–75. ISBN 978-1-59555-152-8. 
  8. ^ Wardrip-Fruin, Noah; Harrigan, Pat (January 2004). First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-262-23232-6. 
  9. ^ Corney, Madison. "Lt. Col. Dave Grossman talks violence prevention". NBC. Archived from the original on 8 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Wyatt, Cenac (April 13, 2018). ""Space Problems, Shit Problems, Minnesota Problems"". "Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas". Season 1. HBO. Retrieved May 27, 2018. 

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