The Murderer Next Door

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Overview

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...

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Overview

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.

Based on a wealth of groundbreaking research, a leading psychologist's fascinating investigation of why we are all "wired to kill"

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
It happens every day. Somewhere in America, some one is killed; the culprit is arrested; and his or her neighbors are astonished that their friendly next-door neighbor is a cold-blooded murderer. But, according to psychological researcher David Buss, we need not be surprised. In The Murderer Next Door, he argues that the vast majority of murders are committed by people who, until the day they kill, would seem to be perfectly normal. He presents this startling theory with compelling evidence, which includes a never-before-used FBI file of more than 400,000 murders and a study that indicated that 91 percent of men and 84 percent of women have had at least one vivid homicidal fantasy.
Steve Weinberg
As Buss unveils the subtleties of his theory -- debunking traditional explanations for domestic violence, for example -- his contravening of the conventional wisdom on murder shows promise of becoming the new conventional wisdom.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
Why do we kill? This University of Texas psychology professor sees it as an evolutionary adaptation. With a ten-city tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Buss (Psychology/Univ. of Texas) challenges the way the public, including guardians of moral values, view the act of murder and those who most often commit it. The author's impressive body of research on the human reproductive imperative has led him to consider the direst consequences of mating gone wrong. The Intelligent Design crowd will hate his message: eons of adaptive processing-survival of the reproductively fittest, in other words-have hardwired us as potential killers. Masterful at marshalling statistics, Buss works from assembled studies of primitive or surviving premodern societies and of confessed or convicted killers. He also makes use of probing interviews with those of us who will allow, for the benefit of science, that we have actually thought of killing someone. Bottom line: depraved, demented, psychotic or serial killers, though they're guaranteed front-page stories, have nothing to do with the vast core of proven and typical future murderers in our society. The individual most likely to kill, states the author, is a rational, planning male in his prime reproductive years who has not killed before but is going after either (a) the woman he believes has betrayed or abandoned him or (b) his principal male rival in the situation. This application from the new field of evolutionary psychology, Buss further claims, does better than any hypothesis previously advanced in explaining mainstream murder not only today but across civilizations past and present. For instance, if violent images on TV or in movies incite killing in America, why do murder rates in societies where media exposure is minimal or nil typically surpass ours? But prewired does not mean foreordained, hestresses: interviews with potential killers strongly indicate that a legal deterrent-a life behind bars-is consistently effective. A provocative, diligently wrought explanation of why cops always count the husband as a suspect. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641789076
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/19/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

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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