The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime
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The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  174 ratings  ·  33 reviews
With a 4-page full-color insert, and black-and-white illustrations throughout

Why do some innocent kids grow up to become cold-blooded serial killers? Is bad biology partly to blame? For more than three decades Adrian Raine has been researching the biological roots of violence and establishing neurocriminology, a new field that applies neuroscience techniques to investigate...more
ebook, 528 pages
Published April 30th 2013 by Vintage (first published March 19th 2013)
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Augustin Erba
Sometimes one comes across a non-fiction book where the author, however eloquent and entertaining, have managed to misunderstand a key concept that unfortunately thwarts a lot of his ideas. Adrian Raine presents some interesting scientific research, and presents some controversial suggestions at the end of the book.

Unfortunately the text is deeply flawed with his lack of understanding of basic statistical and probability concepts. A non-fiction writer who leans heavily on mathematic results mus...more
The information contained within, the evidences and theories, may help us have a safer and more humane society in the future or it may not, but you will read some shocking facts found in piecing together the anatomy of violence.
Have you ever wondered at the evil that men do and the theories why?
Behind the fictional characters like Donald Draper of Mad Men, Norman Bates of Psycho, and Rambo of First Blood there is an unseen tapestry, of thinking and behaviour.
Behind the shocking truths that hit...more
Why does this type of book continue to be published after literally centuries of debate? Shouldn't phrenology have put an end to it?

This book is mostly about bad evolutionary psychology ("Men are warriors; women are worriers"), plus genetic studies that can't prove anything because they don't look at noncriminal individuals. Except when they do and find a whole lot of normal people who have no inkling of criminality despite possessing the same gene.

Knowing that people will read this anyway, I r...more
Darcia Helle
First, I want to emphasize that this is not a light, pop science kind of read. This is one of those detailed books requiring commitment and attention.

Adrian Raine gives us an in-depth look at brain functions, linking specific factors to the cause of violent behavior. Along with the scientific research, Raine offers fascinating case studies of violent criminals whose behavior can be explained by brain anomalies. In closing, he offers intriguing and controversial ideas for a new approach in dealin...more
Tim Petersik
I'm amazed by some of the low ratings this book received. I found Raine's arguments to be balanced in that he always provided the counterarguments and pointed out how far you could "push" the findings he reported. The literature covered was comprehensive. I was especially surprised by the suggestion that Raine didn't have a good grasp of his statistics. He frequently mentioned the percentage of variance accounted for by a finding and compared it to other medical phenomena. Some of the stories he...more
There is an excerpt from this book on The Guardian's site

In the excerpt, the author tells about his vacation in Turkey in 1989, where his girlfriend and him become the victim of a burglary. The story seems more or less plausible until you read the last paragraph.

"After the verdict, one of the judges ushered me and my translator over to the bench. He told us that the defendant would be brought back later for sentencing and that it would be a prison sentence...more
Kevin Bessey
Excellent and exhaustive look at the neuroscience of violence! Raine did an incredible job compiling his research, along with others in the field, and presenting it in a reasonable and topical format.

"The Anatomy of Violence" spends a majority of the time examining aspects and structures of the brain that are correlated with violence; however Raine takes it a step further to examine the heart, sweat glands, and other minor organs of offenders to look for correlations and patterns.

Raine also spen...more
I have to say I found this book quite offensive. Author boasts about his IQ implies he is the best specialist there is and then he asks reader bunch of rhetorical questions implying he is talking to someone without basic knowledge and understanding. However quite a lot of stuff in his book does not seem to be right. I started checking facts and page by page it was all so terribly wrong. At the beginning author describes his trip to Turkey - he then mentions a city in Greece (Iraklion). He claims...more
“Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime” by Adrian Raine. This farrago of pseudoscience written by a criminologist is everything that’s wrong with “evolutionary” theories about human behavior wrapped up and deposited between two covers. Jam-packed with dubious speculation based on misperceptions of how evolution works, “Anatomy of Violence” is all the more alarming because Raine seems to think the ideas in it ought to have a role in public policy. Not just a bad book, but a potential...more
I give this book a 2.5 stars, sure some information in this book is very interesting but other times I feel like the author confused correlation for causation, and many times felt like he completely ignored certain aspects of the equation.

One large problem I had was that most of these studies are on white men with criminal records, and I am assuming that a majority of the controls in the studies cited are with white men with no history of violence. Where are the women? I don't know if the author...more
Peter Mcloughlin
I had to read this book slowly and chew over its contents for some time. I didn't do updates because the thesis is controversial and I didn't want to express hasty judgments. The books thesis flies in the face of the social model exclusively explaining crime. This model dominated in the wake of the holocaust when biological theories of "born criminals" was part of the thinking that was behind the gas chambers. That said the author marshals a lot of evidence for Criminal brains having abnormaliti...more
Where to start with this book? First, it quite poorly written. The style basically involves dumping facts and then repeating cliches. I heard this author speak on NPR, and I was quite impressed with his tone and erudition, so I was really disappointed. The author never lets the reader know that brain scans are quite inaccurate; the science simply isn't that advanced yet. Although I ultimately agree with many of the author's conclusions (i.e., that crime is often the result of bio-social forces),...more
This book contains some very convincing arguments regarding the nature of violence. I like the idea that violent tendencies can be hereditary, that there maybe a genetic factor involved. I was also intrigued by the notion that natural selection favours violent tendencies induced by sexual factors, but I wasn't completely convinced by it. The physiological concepts in this book appealed to me, and I thought they were adequately presented. However, the book lacked charisma; after reading Stephen...more
THE ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE: The Biological Roots of Crime. (2013). Adrian Raine. ****.
Raine is a Professor of Criminology, Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written several books covering the interaction of biology and violence. This book is essentially a review of all of the work that has been done in this area to date, and what use it might be put to in the future. To keep this blurb manageable, I will try to limit myself to only one quote per chapter. Ready?...
Pat Pujolas
I can't think of a more important subject for 2013: the most current brain-imaging technology applied to the minds of killers (and other deviants). You'll see what makes their brains different--structurally and functionally. How and why do they lose empathy for other human beings? If we can understand the genetic and biological roots of violent behavior, there is hope to preventing it and treating it. Required reading for the human species.
Subtitle: biological roots of crime. Interesting read, with some good citations. I also liked the personal anecdotes. Book did feel too long and rambling at some points.

Factoids/interesting bits

P28-29 base rate getting pregnant after intercourse is 3.1%, for rape: 6.4%- 8% (gottschall and Gottschall 2003, Human Nature)
Are per-incident rape-pregnancy rates (6.4%-8%) higher than per-incident consensual pregnancy rates? (3.1%)

P52 MAOA gene for aggression

Molly Octopus
Couldn't even get into this book. The author was far too narrative. I want facts, clear statistical interpretations, credible explanations. The author couldn't convince me that he had a good enough grasp of the material he was writing about. Also, conjecture about violence and criminality is dangerous territory, perhaps offensive if not nuanced enough. And this book was not. Discover magazine, you led me astray.
The slavish devotion to Richard Dawkins and evolutionary psychology made me skeptical, but to be honest, it was the purple prose that pushed me over the edge.
Anton Allen
The science is poor. Exaggerates advances in imaging and neurobiology. Nary a positive predictive value, negative predictive value, or really any kind of statistical analysis of these studies he touts. Repeatedly implies that pooled population data correlations equal causation and can be applied to individual cases. (No!) And disturbing small indicators. Discusses doing spinal tap by placing needle in spinal cord. (Um, recommend thecal sac puncture, not cord.) Talks about brain tumor arising fro...more
George Bishop
My broken brain made me do it! That might be one big takeaway from reading Adrian Raine’s recent book on The Anatomy of Violence. But it would be a gross simplification of a compelling, neurobiological case for the root causes of violence and a straw man at best. A leading authority on the biology of crime, violence, and antisocial behavior, Raine rattles the standard sociological paradigm in criminology with a wealth of evidence from behavioral genetics showing that at least half of our aggres...more
Walking a fine Line ...

This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.

What if society could determine a surefire method to detect the violent criminals among us prior to them ever committing their first crime? What if the elements of violent behavior were more biological than social? Professor Adrian Raine utilizes three decades of studying criminology, psychiatry and psychology to offer an alternative approach to understanding violent crim...more
I heard the author on NPR Fresh Air a few months ago and was intrigued enough to pick up the book when I saw it at my local library. I suspected that it might fall into the "pushing the science too far" trap, especially with brain imaging and neuroscience, but pushed ahead anyway. Biology must have some role, somewhere along the line, to play--culture didn't spring fully formed without it.

The book opens really, really badly with a trip down the evolutionary psychology wormhole. The problem with...more
Byron Edgington
Though highly technical, The Anatomy of Violence is an engaging, provocative and necessary book for anyone striving to understand the genesis and rationale for much of the violent actions of individuals in this society. Without claiming them as THE causes of violent crime, Raine offers his theories as highly probable explanations for much of the headline grabbing, astonishingly inhumane murders and maimings, especially gun violence, that wrack this nation. Bordering on eugenics at times, the aut...more

Coming off vacation, I feel the need for a fresh slate, so this is a partial-read review. Adrian Raine makes a strenuous case for biological changes in the brain as a major contributor to criminal, violent behavior, marshaling his own research and that of many others.

He does indeed assemble many interesting factoids. For instance, children with slow resting heart rates, when followed over a period of years, have more antisocial and violent behavior later on, possibly as the result of low levels...more
I'm not impressed with this book because it makes assumptions that cannot be uncritically accepted. There does appear to be brain differences in criminals and the mentally ill, especially schizophrenics. However, especially as it relates to addictions and criminal behavior, did the brain abnormalities precede or succeed the behaviors? Did nurture affect nature? That is, did the individual's context alter the brain? Can brain processing of experiences change the brain? These questions can only be...more
There are places in this book where the author does get ahead of the definitive brain science, but the book is an interesting look at how brain anatomy and function may relate to violence. Knowing that certain things - like low resting heat rate and poor childhood nutrition - have a correlation to violence does not give us the answers to how remedy these issues, but seeing them as part of the solution is important. The author does make it clear that the social setting has influence on biological...more
I enjoyed how Raine utilizes the narrative style of murder cases along with neuroscience research from the past to the present to engage the reader in an understanding of violent offenders. This book is certainly thought provoking regarding what our future may hold when considering the delicate balance nature and nurture play in the bio social growth of a human being and how certain combinations can help or hurt that process.
Kat Young
closer to 3.75. fun to read some neuroscience again. mostly readable for laymen.

biology + environment creates violent people. it's not just socio-economic. i do wish our society/justice system could do better at treating people BEFOREHAND, and not just trying to play catch up after crimes have been committed.

thought provoking final chapter on possible changes to our legal system/society to address treatment.
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