Read The Anatomy of Violence Online

Authors: Adrian Raine

The Anatomy of Violence

Copyright © 2013 by Adrian Raine

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Pantheon Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-307-90778-3
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-307-37884-2

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Raine, Adrian.
The anatomy of violence : the biological roots of crime / Adrian Raine.
Pages  cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
978-0-307-37884-2 (hardback)
1. Violence—Physiological aspects. 2. Violence—Psychological aspects.
I. Title.
RC569.5.V55R35 2013 616.85’82—dc23 2012036952
Cover design and illustration by Kelly & Cardon Webb
Book design by Soonyoung Kwon


To my sons, Andrew and Philip, in the hope that you will never fall by the wayside as so many in this book have, but will instead move along into happy and fulfilled lives. Don’t worry too much about where the train is going—just decide to get on board for wherever it will take you on life’s adventures. Believe in the spirit of giving at Christmas, remember Tintin, and never forget Sammy Jankis!

“Oh, Agent Starling, you think you can dissect me with this blunt little tool?”

Lecter admonishing Clarice Starling for using a self-report instrument to assess him in Jonathan Demme’s movie
Silence of the Lambs


It’s July 19, 2012, and it’s as hot as the hobs of hell here in Philadelphia. The air-conditioning in my work office conked out, so I came home to an airy upstairs library room to write this preface. I should have been filming a
crime documentary this afternoon with a crew from Chicago, but they had their equipment stolen this morning. That’s not a surprise, though, as crime strikes all the time here in Philadelphia. Yesterday, I was dealing with two police detectives—Lydon and Boyle—here at my house, which had been
burgled yesterday. Just what you want when you come back after midnight from Hong Kong. But I live close to my data, which is one reason I reside here in West Philadelphia.

Looking around this upstairs library, I’m surrounded by hundreds of rare-edition books on crime and
violence that the burglar didn’t take. I suppose he’s not as interested as we are in what causes crime. They’re not my books, mind you. They belong to the people who lived here during the seventy-year period before I moved in. Most belong to
Marvin Wolfgang, a world-renowned criminologist who, beginning in 1969, sat and wrote in this very library room. For the thirty years before that,
Thorsten Sellin, another world-leading criminologist and Wolfgang’s PhD supervisor, lived here, having bought the house just seven weeks before the outbreak of World War II. I am at his desk. For three-quarters of a century between the two of them—professor and mentor—these intellectual giants in sociology redefined the field of criminology at the
University of Pennsylvania, where I myself now work.

Given that remarkable criminological legacy, my mind inevitably turns to a historical
perspective on the fundamental question addressed by this book. Is there a significant
biological contribution to the causes and cures of crime? It turns out that that idea was all the rage 150 years ago, when an Italian doctor named
Cesare Lombroso broke with intellectual tradition and, taking a novel empirical approach to studying
crime, tried to persuade the world of a basis to crime residing in the brain. But as the twentieth century progressed, what was once an innovative viewpoint quickly fizzled out and
sociological perspectives took center stage. During that time no criminologist worth his or her salt would have anything to do with an anatomy of violence or the biology of bad behavior.

Except, that is, the sociologist whose ghost lingers close to me beside the fireplace in this upstairs library overlooking Locust Street. Marvin Wolfgang documented in a far-reaching historical analysis of Cesare Lombroso that never in the history of criminology has a person been simultaneously more eulogized and more condemned.
He noted how Lombroso continues to be held up as a straw man for attack by those hostile to a biological theory of crime causation. He recognized the clear limitations in Lombroso’s research, yet simultaneously saw the enormous contributions that this Italian made.

Toward the end of his own career, Wolfgang himself became convinced that there was—in part—a biological, cerebral basis to crime. His mentor Thorsten Sellin similarly believed that Lombroso’s biological perspective, focusing as it did on the criminal rather than the crime, was unprecedented in its vitality and influence.
Sharing their home and library as I do at this moment, I can hardly disagree with them.

Yet most in the field of criminology would disagree. Biological research on violence was vilified in the 1970s and 1980s, during my formative years as a scientist. Amid interdisciplinary rivalries the perception was that researchers like me were at best biological determinists who ignored social processes—and at worst

Perhaps because of a rebellious and stubborn streak running through me, that negative perspective has never deterred me throughout my thirty-five years of researching the biology of crime. Nevertheless, working as I have within the confines of top-security prisons and ivory-tower universities, I have been shut off from a wider audience who might be just as excited as I am about what new insights a biological perspective can offer. It is that desire to share this research with a wider audience that inspired me to write this book.

In that context I owe an enormous debt of thanks to
Jonathan Kellerman for encouraging me to write a popular book about my work. Jonathan, as one of the world’s foremost writers of crime fiction, has himself written a provocative nonfiction science book,
Savage Spawn
, on the causes of crime in the wake of a horrific schoolyard shooting.
About fifteen years ago we had lunch together. Jonathan has a PhD in clinical psychology, had read and absorbed my academic work, and believed I had something important to share with others. He put me in touch with his own agent, and I wrote a proposal. It came to nothing. At that time, no matter how I tried, I could not get any publisher interested.

But times changed in those fifteen years. On the tails of the
genome project, societies across the world have begun to realize the importance of genetic and biological
factors in a whole host of processes—and not just medical conditions. Serendipity struck. Eric Lupfer, an alumnus of the
University of Pennsylvania and a literary agent at William Morris Endeavor, read a question-and-answer article about my work in our university’s magazine. Eric too recognized the potential public interest in a book on the anatomy of violence, and thanks to his outreach and vision, here I am completing the book in this historic room. I could not have had a more supportive, helpful agent. Sincere thanks are also due to Jeff Alexander at Pantheon for his splendid edits, vision, and guidance in the final throes of my writing—the time spent with him has been magical. Josie Kals and Jocelyn Miller at Pantheon provided invaluable support and help, and I am particularly indebted to my copy editor, Kate Norris, for her meticulous and careful fine-tuning of the manuscript. Thanks also to Helen Conford at Penguin for her strong enthusiasm and encouragement throughout this long march. Eric, Jeff, and Helen have together provided me with a wonderful opportunity for which I am truly grateful.

That sea change in opinion I mentioned is also filtering through into academia. Leading criminologists across the world are now beginning to follow in Wolfgang and Sellin’s footsteps. They are recognizing the cross-disciplinary potential of a biological approach not as a competitive challenge, but as a cross-fertilizing joint enterprise that combines social with biological perspectives. Even the world’s premier sociology journal,
American Sociological Review
, is beginning to publish molecular genetic research on crime and violence. Nobody would have dreamed that just fifteen years ago. Now the new subdiscipline of
neurocriminology is quickly sweeping us back to the future.

Friedrich Lösel, the director of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge, was a kind host to me there while I completed this book. In Cambridge I benefited enormously from discussions with Sir Anthony Bottoms, Manuel Eisner, David Farrington, and
Per-Olof Wikström, as well as Friedrich himself. At the University of Pennsylvania, Bill Laufer worked with me to bridge my imaging research with his expertise on white-collar crime. Martha Farah was pivotal in introducing me to neuroethics, while Stephen Morse has tutored me patiently in neurolaw. It has been an honor to work with such extraordinary colleagues. I should also thank Richard Perry, who endowed my chair, as well as Amy Gutmann, who had faith in my controversial work and hired me into her Penn Integrates Knowledge initiative.

Interest in the biology of violence goes well beyond academia and into the media. Erin Conroy at William Morris Endeavor had masterly intuition in showing
Anatomy of Violence
to Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, who then obtained a pilot production commitment for it from CBS. My thanks to you, Erin, and also to you, Howard, for finding something in this book to spark your interest for a new TV series; it has truly meant a lot to me.

So very many research collaborators, colleagues, and academic friends have helped and inspired me over the years. Among these I am especially indebted in different ways to Freda Adler, Rebecca Ang, Josef Aoun, Laura Baker, Irv Biederman, John Brekke, Patty Brennan, Monte Buchsbaum, Ty Cannon, Avshalom Caspi, Antonio and Hannah Damasio, Mike Dawson, Barbra Dickerman, Ken Dodge, Annis Fung, Daniel Fung, Lisa Gatzke-Kopp, Chenbo Han, Robert Hare, Lori LaCasse, Jerry Lee, Tatia Lee, Rolf and Magda Loeber, Zhong-lin Lu, Don Lynam, John MacDonald, Tashneem Mahoomed, Sarnoff Mednick, Terrie Moffitt, Joe Newman, Chris Patrick, Angela Scarpa, Richard Tremblay, and Stephanie van Goozen. Their friendship, support, and inspiration have meant a lot to me over the years. My students at the University of Pennsylvania have been a true joy to instruct and supervise. Among many I must particularly acknowledge the “Gang of Four”—Yu Gao, Andrea Glenn, Robert Schug, and Yaling Yang—for the privilege of learning from such a talented, gifted, and productive research team.

We gain inspiration from many sources in different ways. I am especially indebted to my PhD supervisor, Peter Venables, at York University, for his support and encouragement over the past thirty-five years, particularly during the four years I spent working in prison, where for seven months I simply gave up on completing my PhD. He has been a very special person in my life. Dick Passingham did more than anyone in tutoring me to think clearly and simply when I was an undergraduate at Oxford University. In a different vein, Larry Sherman was pivotal
in bringing me to criminology at the University of Pennsylvania five years ago. To him I owe an enormous debt of thanks. His vision in believing that neurocriminology is a field of the future has been truly inspirational. Marty Seligman gave me thoughtful advice on writing this book and sparked in my mind one of the futuristic scenarios in the final chapter.

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