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Base Instincts: What Makes Killers Kill?

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  97 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Neurologist Dr. Jonathan Pincus personally examined and probed into the family and medical history of numerous serial killers and other violent criminals to analyze what creates and triggers the violent instinct. He discovered that virtually all suffered severe abuse as children, as well as brain damage and mental illness. In these gripping, terrifying stories, Pincus conc ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2001)
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Nov 06, 2012 added it
In the book Base Instincts: What Makes Killers Kill, Neurologist Jonathan H. Pincus studies and researches extensively the characteristics and behaviors of serial killers and murderers. He gathers information from a broad variety of people, varying in gender, age, income level and social status. Pincus’s study was thorough and un-biased. He interviewed the killers’ families, acquaintances, the killers themselves, and the families of victims. In his book, Pincus is clearly quite experienced in t ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it liked it
An excellent book based on years of research that attempts to explain why some people become violent killers. Pincus's theory that it is a combination of childhood abuse and frontal lobe damage (from injury, genetics, etc.) is a compelling one because abuse provides the template and frontal lobe damage removes the internal check on our behavior. Although this is a nonfiction work based on in-depth research, it is very readable for the layperson though the descriptions of child abuse are VERY gra ...more
He has a theory that brain damage plus abuse causes it. Mostly interesting for case histories.
Carmen Tudor
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this, but as some of the other reviewers noted, mainly for the case studies. The link between Pincus's triadic features (abuse, brain injury and paranoid ideation) and murder was fascinating, but I wonder if the book has been updated recently? While Pincus mentions seizures in some of the case studies of killers, I don't recall a commentary on the possibility of temporal lobe epilepsy to explain such experiences as astral travel (rather than viewing it as resultant of brain injury or p ...more
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
The author does a great job of staying objective while relating not only the sordid details of the killers' actions, but also the details of past abuse that the killers themselves suffered. I found myself overwhelmed by the depravity of the abuse some of the killers suffered in their youth. This book is very thought-provoking - it had me taking a long hard look at my feelings on the death penalty and mitigating circumstances while at the same time wondering if some criminals weren't so badly bro ...more
T.M. Carper
Aug 05, 2011 added it
Shelves: non-fic
This book wasn't what I expected based on the title. It reads like a research paper/research study in some ways and would be a great reference for a psychology paper on biological or behavioral causes of psychopathology/APD. It covers brain damage, abuse, brain structure, and how DNA, nature vs nurture and other factors can play a role in the development of a serial killer.

It's a good book if you're interested in serial killers or what causes them, or if you need a refere
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Read for university.
Cate Kavanagh
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
"Ever hear a baby cry" is by far the most awful and disturbing chapter of the book. I wish we were also informed of the fate of the abusive parents featured.
Captivating read.
Feb 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Laura and Britn and Dave
Shelves: airport-books
This may be one of the BEST books I have ever read. I am reading it slowly, because I simply do not want it to end!
Faisal Aslim
Sep 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Pincus' Criminal Behavior Triad:
1. Brain Damage (especially in the frontal lobe)
2. Abuse experiences in childhood, and
3. Paranoia
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Sep 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Abuse, neurological disturbance, and mental illness.

Read this book and weep.
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Apr 03, 2019
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