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, he stresses: 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.