Though this volume is a bit dated, there are few recent popular books dealing specifically with the psychology of murder and it’s a quick overview available for a few dollars, so still well worth the effort. It makes no attempt to be comprehensive and is somewhat superficial in places, with the reader expected to fill in the blanks from his many other books and the vast literature on violence. For an update see e.g., Buss, The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology 2nd ed. V1 (2016) p 265, 266, 270–282, 388–389, 545–546, 547, 566 and Buss, Evolutionary Psychology 5th ed. (2015) p 26, 96–97,223, 293-4, 300, 309–312, 410 and Shackelford and Hansen, The Evolution of Violence (2014). He has been among the top evolutionary psychologists for several decades and covers a wide range of behavior in his works, but here he concentrates almost entirely on the psychological mechanisms that cause individual people to murder and their possible evolutionary function in the EEA (Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation—i.e., the plains of Africa during the last million years or so).
Buss starts by noting that as with other behaviors, ‘alternative’ explanations such as psychopathology, jealousy, social environment, group pressures, drugs and alcohol etc. do not really explain, since the question still remains as to why these produce homicidal impulses, i.e., they are the proximate causes and not the ultimate evolutionary (genetic) ones. As always, it inevitably boils down to inclusive fitness (kin selection), and so to the struggle for access to mates and resources, which is the ultimate explanation for all behavior in all organisms. Sociological data (and common sense) make it clear that younger poorer males are the most likely to kill. He presents his own and others homicide data from industrialized nations, and tribal cultures, conspecific killing in animals, archeology, FBI data and his own research into normal people's homicidal fantasies. Much archeological evidence continues to accumulate of murders, including that of whole groups, or of groups minus young females, in prehistoric times.
After surveying Buss’s comments, I present a very brief summary of intentional psychology (the logical structure of rationality), which is covered extensively in my many other articles and books.
Those with a lot of time who want a detailed history of homicidal violence from an evolutionary perspective may consult Steven Pinker’s ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature Why Violence Has Declined’(2012), and my review of it, easily available on the net and in two of my recent books. Briefly, Pinker notes that murder has decreased steadily and dramatically by a factor of about 30 since our days as foragers. So, even though guns now make it extremely easy for anyone to kill, homicide is much less common. Pinker thinks this is due to various social mechanisms that bring out our ‘better angels’, but I think it’s due mainly to the temporary abundance of resources from the merciless rape of our planet, coupled with increased police presence, with communication and surveillance and legal systems that make it far more likely to be punished. This becomes clear every time there is even a brief and local absence of the police.
Those wishing a comprehensive up to date framework for human behavior from the modern two systems view may consult my book ‘The Logical Structure of Philosophy, Psychology, Mind and Language in Ludwig Wittgenstein and John Searle’ 2nd ed (2019). Those interested in more of my writings may see ‘Talking Monkeys--Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Religion and Politics on a Doomed Planet--Articles and Reviews 2006-2019 3rd ed (2019), The Logical Structure of Human Behavior (2019), and Suicidal Utopian Delusions in the 21st Century 4th ed (2019)