See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 24, Issue 2

Psychology of War Helps to Explain Atrocities

The peculiar psychology of war likely holds answers for avoiding future atrocities

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“I really tortured others. At night we went out and raided villages. We killed whomever we saw. If we happened to see a woman, we raped her.... Fighting is all there is in the life of a man. Whenever I hear guns go off, I want nothing more than to fight. This thirst lies deep within me.”

The young man who is describing these unbelievable horrors has a gaunt but friendly face. We are in Goma, a bleak city at the eastern edge of the civil war taking place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our team of German researchers from the University of Konstanz and an aid organization, called vivo international, sits shivering in our encampment.

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