Violent Criminals Believe Their Actions are Morally Necessary

Wife beaters, rapists, and child abusers seem to be without morals. But researchers argue to the contrary, saying that violent acts are driven by the belief that their actions are necessary.

Some people commit heinous acts of violence against one another. We're led to believe that these wife beaters, murderers, and gang bangers all lack a moral compass to guide them through life, which is why they do what they do. But two anthropologists from UCLA and Northwestern University say this assumption is wrong. In fact, these people think that what their actions are virtuous and morally necessary. 


Tech Times' Jim Algar reports on the study, which argues that most violence is driven by the thought that the perpetrator is doing the right thing. Alan Page Fiske and Tage Shakti Rai both led the study and wrote a book together on the subject called Virtuous Violence. They began their investigation of violence thinking that they wouldn't be able to find a common motive. But after reading through scholarly papers on the subject, which included thousands of interviews with offenders, they found a trend of thought.

Fiske said they found reason and morality behind what some may see as meaningless acts of violence:

“Except for a few psychopaths, hardly anybody harming anybody else is doing something that they intend to be evil. On the contrary, they intend to be doing something right and good.”

In their book, they address child and spousal abuse, rape, war, suicide, and gang violence. What outsiders may perceive as morally reprehensible acts, they found a perpetrator is driven by the impulse to right a wrong. For the case of spousal abuse, Fiske and Rai explain that the abuser may think they're obligated or entitled to carry out these acts as a means to address or fix issues in their relationship.

Fiske said in a press release:

“Social workers and newspaper readers don’t think gang members should be killing each other, but within the gang they do.”

The two emphasize that they don't condone acts of violence. However, this research is meant to shed light on the issue as a means to fix the cycle. By understanding motivations, programs will be better equipped to rehabilitate offenders and stop the problem. They cite the success of intervention programs that concentrate on convincing perpetrators that their actions are not acceptable, and viewed as immoral.

Their findings make a compelling case that calls into question how we deal with those who break the social contract that binds us as a community of people. Perhaps rehabilitation should be used as a way to stem the problem.

Read more at Tech Times

Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB/Flickr

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