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Religious Studies
RELS 331

Waller, James. Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing : How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing. Boulder: NetLibrary, Incorporated, 2002. Queen's University Library. Queen's University. Web. This chapter thoroughly describes the moral and psychological methods by which ordinary people justify committing and turning a blind eye to extraordinary acts of evil. It explains how when a victim has already died a “social death”, the perpetrator’s perception of the individual or group is altered and enables him/her to kill. The concept of a social death is used commonly to remove any emotional connection between the perpetrator and the target. The chapter argues that the social death of a person in relation to killing can be broken down into three main categories, resulting in a moral and psychological distancing; an us versus them mentality, the dehumanization of the victim, and the assignment of blame. The author describes how people being placed into social categories based on religious beliefs, nationality, culture, appearances, and even personality traits is a natural human thought process. People employ something called the accentuation effect, which is defined as the exaggeration of similarities within one’s own group as well as the exaggeration of slight differences in the out-groups to create separations in society. This effect allows individuals to enhance their own self-esteem by thinking of their own group as more superior to another a
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