"THE BIOLOGY OF VIOLENCE: How Understanding the Brain, Behavior, and Environment Can Break the Vicious Circle of Aggression" by Debra Niehoff
Kirkus Star

"THE BIOLOGY OF VIOLENCE: How Understanding the Brain, Behavior, and Environment Can Break the Vicious Circle of Aggression"

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A masterful, much-needed primer on how a disruption of the interweaving of biology and environment can lead people to hurt each other. This makes clear that most current rhetoric on the subject is totally out-of-date and must be discarded. Niehoff, who has done research herself in neurobiology, points out that the last 25 years of studies in the neurosciences have given us myriad tools to reduce the level of violence in society; we now need to stop reacting (basically, sending increasing numbers of people off to prison) and start thinking about solutions from a new perspective. Niehoff begins with an historical overview of our antipathy toward biological explanations of aggression. Many such efforts, she acknowledges, have been racist at their core. But the new perspective of ""holistic biology"" is based on greater understanding of the physical processes of the body, and on how they continue to develop for years after birth in response to one's surroundings. ""Behavior is a dynamic process integrating physiology and experience,"" Niehoff writes--in short, biology is not destiny. Another popularly held notion to discard, Niehoff explains, is that violence is a single entity with a single cause, always to be treated in the same way. At the center of this work is a comprehensive tour of the relevant structure and function of the nervous system, in which Niehoff makes clear the different types of aggressive responses, how they arise physiologically, at what different points and from what causes the system can go awry, and at what different junctures critical and effective interventions can be made. Finally, Niehoff pulls together all her evidence into a well-based practical treatment plan for violence in society--one that we have the ability to embark on now. Throughout, Niehoff informs, rather than sensationalizes. This should be required reading for the powers that be, and those who cling to outdated notions about violence and crime. We really can do better.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Free Press