The 'Breaking Bad' Syndrome? UCLA anthropologist exposes the moral side of violence

December 23, 2014 by Meg Sullivan
Fiske and Rai say that — aside from a small number of psychopaths — people rarely commit violent acts with evil intentions.

Fiske and Rai say that—aside from a small number of psychopaths—people rarely commit violent acts with evil intentions.

To the extent that their heinous behavior can be understood, murders, wife beaters, gang bangers and other violent criminals are acting out of a breakdown of morals, right? Not so fast, say social scientists from UCLA and Northwestern University.

In a new book, Alan Page Fiske and Tage Shakti Rai ascribe most acts of to a truly surprising impulse: the desire to do the right thing.

"When someone does something to hurt themselves or other people, or to kill somebody, they usually do so because they think they have to," explained Fiske, a UCLA professor of anthropology and lead author of "Virtuous Violence," which is being published Jan. 15 by Cambridge University Press. "They think they should do it, that it's the right thing to do, that they ought to do it and that it's morally necessary."

Co-author Rai said killings and physical attacks are often committed in retribution for wrongs—real or perceived—or as an effort to teach lessons and instill obedience or, amazingly, an attempt to rectify a relationship that in the 's mind has gone awry and cannot be corrected in any other way.

"We're not talking just about the way perpetrators excuse or justify their behavior afterwards," said Rai, Fiske's former graduate student at UCLA and now a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. "We're talking about what motivates them to do it in the first place.

"When we say that violence is morally motivated, we mean that it is so in the mind of the perpetrator. We don't mean that we think that violence is good."

Fiske and Rai arrived at their startling conclusion after analyzing a wide array of scholarly research on violence, including thousands of interviews with violent offenders. Their book quotes from real-life perpetrators as well as those from works of fiction, ranging from "The Iliad" to "Huckleberry Finn."

"When we started writing this book, we thought, 'We'll never figure out what really motivates perpetrators of violent acts,'" Fiske said. "But actually it turned out not to be that hard."

They even uncovered moral motivations behind suicide, war and rape, and the authors say the finding transcends modern and historical cultures.

The authors admit there are exceptions—people who don't have such virtuous motivations for their violent acts. But those exceptions typically are psychopaths, who make up just a small fraction of the general population and account for a small portion of violence. And when people with other mental illnesses commit acts of violence, they often do so believing they are doing the right thing.

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

Probably the most familiar example in the book is beating children. Increasingly frowned on today, the spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child approach to child rearing was once widely condoned by parents and educators as a disciplinary tool. Fiske and Rai quote parents from days gone by expressing fear of shortchanging a child's moral development on occasions when they withheld corporal punishment.

While the impetus is slightly different for spousal abuse, the perpetrator also is convinced he or she is in the right. Fiske and Rai found that many abusers feel entitled—even obligated—to use violence to redress wrongs that they perceive themselves to have suffered, and to sustain what seems to them to be the right kind of relationship.

Indeed, using violence to redress wrongs has been ubiquitous throughout history, they point out, citing burning of witches, killing of adulterers and honor suicides by those who believed they had failed to do their duty.

Fiske is best known for developing "relational models," a widely cited theory of behavior that describes all human interactions in one of four simple kinds of relationships. He and Rai argue in the new book that it is often a terribly misguided impulse to rectify a perceived violation of one of those relationship structures that compels someone to commit a violent act. For example, they explain, a perceived breach of the "hierarchical relationship" is often at the root of rape.

Violent acts might usually appear unjustifiable to outsiders, but peers, family members or other members of the perpetrator's social circle likely view them as necessary measures. Indeed, close relations accuse the perpetrator of being weak and cowardly if he doesn't act. An example is the gang member who retaliates for an attack on of one of his own.

"Social workers and newspaper readers don't think gang members should be killing each other, but within the gang they do," Fiske said.

The authors emphasize that they do not condone violence, but they believe that stemming violence requires that we first understand what motivates it. They note that successful gang and spousal abuse intervention programs concentrate on convincing perpetrators that, contrary to their beliefs, their actions are widely viewed as immoral and unacceptable.

"All you have to do," Fiske said, "is convince the people who are violent that what they're doing is wrong."

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katesisco
not rated yet Dec 23, 2014
Well. as stated above this is a common usage throughout history. It is the way people can live with others having done great wrong, justification.

The authors emphasize that they do not condone violence, but they believe that stemming violence requires that we first understand what motivates it. They note that successful gang and spousal abuse intervention programs concentrate on convincing perpetrators that, contrary to their beliefs, their actions are widely viewed as immoral and unacceptable.

"All you have to do," Fiske said, "is convince the people who are violent that what they're doing is wrong."

If it was that simple it would have already been done. The hitch? The profit that results from the act. If it was not profitable, to self, ego, group, etc. , it wouldn't be done.

Actually a better persuader is to give the individual a choice equal to the profit involved by wrongdoing.
Squirrel
5 / 5 (2) Dec 23, 2014
What was the perceived violation done by European Jews that required rectification by gassing and Auschwitz-Birkenau? Or the "hierarchical relationship" that requires that a woman late at night on public transport is raped?
tadchem
3 / 5 (4) Dec 23, 2014
I have trouble granting any credibility to anyone who claims to understand what other people are thinking. This is especially true in cases where atypical behavior is involved.
RobertKarlStonjek
3 / 5 (2) Dec 23, 2014
The leading causes of murder include escaping for an unhappy marriage, greed and revenge. Just how are these altruistic acts in the minds of the perpetrators?
Vietvet
3 / 5 (4) Dec 23, 2014
"All you have to do," Fiske said, "is convince the people who are violent that what they're doing is wrong."

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

The authors are on to something until that last sentence. The convincing part is unrealistic.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (4) Dec 23, 2014
More effective is Obama's plan to implement "Minority Report" pre-crimes and arrest people for what they could do hypothetically, instead of what they do in reality: https://www.youtu...Am0#t=81

Science must crate an army of psychics to search for these precriminals. Or better just flip a coin
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (2) Dec 25, 2014
The authors emphasize that they do not condone violence, but they believe that stemming violence requires that we first understand what motivates it.
IMHO- religion is likely the biggest cause of violence

Religion (not a faith) is the codification of rules that is designed to segregate, separate, control and cause division between people by classing & training the converts to view those who aren't in the religion as less than human, or not civilized, etc (see xtian vs American Indians)
and it is so widely accepted and acceptable because people like to think they are more special/better than someone else

until we can get the "religious mentality" problem fixed, we are not likely to go anywhere... religion often dictates the cultural "morals" (or tries to, anyway)

That is why there is such hate towards, say... gay marriage
another example is inter-racial marriage and (what we mistakenly call) minorities

There are only people
RobertKarlStonjek
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 26, 2014
Religion had nothing to do with the biggest wars of the 20th century: First and Second World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq Mk.I and II.

Religion certainly has been the prominent feature of many wars, but often religion is an excuse for grabbing territory and other resources.

Let's not confound excuses with the real reasons for war aggression.

Personal aggression and national aggression have two common features: Self defence and pre-emption (strike before being attacked) which are similar in intent.

In all cases individuals are attempting to preserve, protect or extend their will (control) or the will of the body they are committed to (religion, country, tribe or other group)
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.2 / 5 (5) Dec 26, 2014
"The desire to do the right thing"

"As regards humans, Darwin stated that "the confinement of sympathy to the same tribe" must have been the rule. This was for him one of the chief causes of the low morality of the savages. "Primeval man", he argued, "regarded actions as good or bad solely as they obviously affected the welfare of the tribe, not of the species". Among the living tribal peoples, he added, "the virtues are practised almost exclusively in relation to the men of the same tribe" and the corresponding vices "are not regarded as crimes" if practised on other tribes (Darwin, 1871)

-Chronic overpopulation and the struggle for resources forced the tribal dynamic upon proto-humans. Ever since humans became able to hunt the predators which were keeping their numbers in check, intertribal violence prevailed.

This perverted intratribal behavior as well. Those who could not conform were bullied, expelled, killed as their presence weakened the tribe.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (4) Dec 26, 2014
Religion had nothing to do with the biggest wars of the 20th century: First and Second World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq Mk.I and II.
Religion was the cause of all these wars. Religion exacerbates the tribal dynamic - us vs them - and forces growth in order to outgrow and overrun the enemy. The cultures which survived were the ones with the most efficient religions.

The religion-based cultures which were destroyed in these wars are the reason they happened in the first place. Most of Eurasia has been at peace since ww2 expressly because these cultures had been destroyed.

Sometimes it takes hundreds of years and many conflicts. The Brits fought 2 wars in order to maintain the flow of opium into China, to weaken the culture. Baptist missionaries instigated the Taipei rebellion. The nationalist/communist conflicts killed millions. The sham of communist martial law was necessary to finish the cultural eradication.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 26, 2014
The leading causes of murder include escaping for an unhappy marriage, greed and revenge. Just how are these altruistic acts in the minds of the perpetrators?
First off, are you guessing or assuming? But there are valid biological reasons for these acts. Pre-religion monogamy was relatively rare. But stable marriages promote harmony among tribal members and enable the production of large families, both of which strengthen the tribe.

Men and women have different reproductive strategies. Men seek to father as many offspring as possible while women want the very best donor for each and every child she will bear, and will discern quality by causing men to compete for her. These behaviors, while natural, weaken the tribe and so people must be forced to abandon them.

Greed is only the desire to secure resources for the tribe. And as for revenge, members with long memories who do not forget who their enemies are and what they are still capable of, also benefits the tribe.
RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Dec 26, 2014
It's not easy to find reliable stats but this came from the 'Australian Institute of Criminology', motive for murder is recorded as:

For males
23% Non Alcohol fuelled Argument
18% No apparent motive
15% Domestic argument
15% Revenge
15% Money/drugs
13% Alcohol related argument

For Women
49% Domestic argument
27% No apparent motive
08% Non Alcohol fuelled Argument
07% Money/drugs
05% Revenge
03% Alcohol related argument

http://www.aic.go...110.html
alfie_null
not rated yet Dec 28, 2014
How about a scientifically satisfying definition for "evil"? Some way to measure it.

If a psychopath's mind lacks the wiring to understand evil, at least the way the rest of us understand it, it's unproductive to worry about his inability to self-assess.

For the rest, morals are a mutable attribute. People who commit acts that would be adjudged evil by others are amazingly capable of justifying those acts to themselves. Find me someone who prefers to think of himself as evil! Stating that most acts of evil are done for moral purposes doesn't say much.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (2) Dec 28, 2014
If morality is the root of crime, it follows logically that religion is the root cause of crime. The brainwashed deem themselves the right hand of gawd, and seek retribution without question, knowing their imaginary friend will back them up. Small wonder these same people then seek out their gawd in prison and feel redemption. They feel redeemed for doing the crime, not regretting it

While on the subject of retards, OZGuy, Estevan57, Vietvet all support paying psychics floating in hot tubs searching for suspects to arrest based upon NOTHING. Really even Hitler's SS made fake charges for those they arrested in midnight raids. The above posters support imprisonment for NOTHING AT ALL
ryggesogn2
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 28, 2014
In all cases individuals are attempting to preserve, protect or extend their will


Protecting one's will from the violence of others is self defense?
McIek
Dec 28, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
kochevnik
not rated yet Dec 29, 2014
@McIek Putin enjoys 82% support in Russia and 88% support in China. My gf's aunt lives there. Are you calling her Ukranian? It was a symbolig gift as the CCCP was all one country. Like giving you the key to the city. Crimea is Russia longer than USA exists. We have treaty with Ukraine to station 70000 troops there anytime for any duration and instead we welcome any and all defectors and give them jobs, unlike the USA does for their returning vets. We are all Russians

The people running the Crown Corporation of the City of London trace their bloodlines back to King Nimrod of Babylon. The Jews there simply took over banking functions because Judaism permits usury and frankly, they're a lot smarter as a group than the catholics running the NWO in the City of London
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2014
It was a symbolig gift as the CCCP was all one country.


The real course of events: Crimea was joined with the Ukraine ASSR (Autonomic Socialist Soviet Republic). At the dissolution of the Union, a referendum was made where Ukraine was offered full autonomy and independence from the USSR in all but name if they voted yes to keep the Soviet Union. They did, but Kremlin betrayed them and started to back off on the promises, so a second referendum was held a few months later and Ukraine voted to secede from the Soviet Union.

The Crimean ASSR did not secede with Ukraine. When Ukraine left the Union, they first held their own referendum to be their own Autonomic SSR - not belonging to the Russian SSR or anyone else - and promptly declared to leave the Soviet Union, and then asked to join Ukraine.

They left.

Russian people forget that the Soviet Union was not Russia - it was a Union of many republics who were promised, but not given any real autonomy.
Eikka
not rated yet Dec 30, 2014
What was the perceived violation done by European Jews that required rectification by gassing and Auschwitz-Birkenau?


They were essentially on the wrong team.

See: http://en.wikiped...laration

The foreign secretary of the UK had promised to the Rothschild family who were the leading figures in the new zionist movement, during the first world war, to establish a Jewish state on the lands they were about to gain from the Ottoman empire as part of the Mandate for Palestine.

Hitler percieved that the allies had bought their co-operation to win the war, and were using the Jewish population in Europe at large as a spy and saboteur network in a conspiracy against Germany. It didn't much help that the Triple Entente (WW1 allies) were openly vindictive with the post-war sanctions.

See: http://en.wikiped...ack_myth
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2014
We have treaty with Ukraine to station 70000 troops there anytime for any duration


Actually, that treaty was about to run out in 2017 because of the Ukranian constituton which prohibited stationing foreign troops within their borders after that time.

Yanukovich signed an extension to the lease of Russian military bases in Crimea in violation of this constututional decree, which is part of why he is being accused of treason.

TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2014
How about a scientifically satisfying definition for "evil
This is easy. In the context of tribes, good is that which benefits your tribe and/or weakens enemy tribes. Evil in contrast is that which harms your tribe and/or benefits enemy tribes.

This is why for instance moses was able to receive tablets which forbade killing while on his way to depopulate the promised land. The OT offers many important lessons on how to maintain tribal cohesion while engaged in the conquest of foreign lands.

How do you maintain loyalty? How do you convince members to remain committed to the tribe in times of stress and temptation? In many cases this requires murdering/culling those who stray, and many examples can be found in the bible which demonstrates this. Youll note that the authors consider it the exact opposite of evil.

The remnants carry on, quickly replacing their numbers through forced reproduction. This is beyond situational ethics. Ethics sometimes requires murder.
cont>
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2014
You may say that this sort of barbarism has no place in modern society and you are right. For the first time in history we have the opportunity to spread the perception that all people are members of a single universal tribe. Ethics in this environment are wholly altruistic, as they are within the traditional tribe itself.

This is of course a monumental task. It began many centuries ago. It requires a universal language and a global communications network which can continuously reinforce this perception. And only a technological civilization at our level of development can hope to accomplish it.

And essential to its success is the destruction of obsolete cultures which will stand in its way. These cultures are invariably religion-based.

With this Goal in mind we can reexamine the wars and revolutions of history, and we can begin to realize that the most substantial Result of these conflicts was the destruction of these obsolete cultures, and that this is why they were waged.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2014
and promptly declared to leave the Soviet Union, and then asked to join Ukraine
Actually the people as usual had little say in their fate.

"On February 27, 1954 Pravda published a short announcement on its front page that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR had decreed on February 19 the transfer of the Crimean oblast' from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The decree, which ran a mere eight lines, stated that this measure was being taken because of "the economic commonalities, territorial closeness, and communication and cultural links" between Crimea and Ukraine."

-IOW kruschev gave the peninsula away. This was done in the course of Arranging for future conflicts. This has happened many times throughout history, and for much the same Reason. Czechs, slavs, and ethnic germans, traditional antagonists, were all included in an artificial country called czechoslovakia by the american president wilson at the end of ww1.
cont>
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2014
Czechoslovakia was created because the war was not over. It was halted temporarily because mechanized armor and air power threatened to mobilize the front again and no one knew what the consequences would be.

This phony country was assembled to serve as an excuse to restart the war in a few decades. Meanwhile, germany and the soviets developed these new technologies in concert, and actually practiced with them in secret out on the russian steppes.

Field trials were conducted by russia against japan in the east, and by the nazis in spain. By the time ww2 started all sides had a much better idea of how to use this tech, and how to plan a very thorough and devastating war sufficient to destroy the remaining medieval cultures in existence throughout eurasia.
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 02, 2015
Actually the people as usual had little say in their fate.

"On February 27, 1954 ...


We're talking of the 1990's here, not 1954.

The point was that Crimea did not leave the Soviet Union as part of Ukraine. When Ukraine left, Crimea was still in the Union, and had they themselves not elected to leave, they would have been assimilated into a part of Russia, the same as the other small ASSRs such as Georgia.

It had nothing to do with Kruschev's "gift" anymore, and everything to do with the new rise of autocratic politicians in Kremlin. Anyone who managed to get out, did so, because everyone could predict the rise of the oligarchy out of the ashes of the Soviet empire.

Eikka
not rated yet Jan 02, 2015
IOW kruschev gave the peninsula away. This was done in the course of Arranging for future conflicts.


So what you're insinuating is that Kruschev was involved in a conspiracy that deliberately mistreated and alienated the people of Crimea for 40 years so they would voluntarily elect to secede from Russia at the first opportunity, but then 22 years from that reverse their opinion so that the people involved in the conspiracy could start WW3.

Pretty good long term planning.

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