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Brains & Bullets: How psychology wins wars

Brains & Bullets: How psychology wins wars [Kindle Edition]

Leo Murray
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Product Description


As an introduction to recent developments in the field of tactical psychology, this book should be welcomed… Murray presents a thought-provoking argument for the importance of psychology on the battlefield in deciding the outcome of future conflicts. --Military History Monthly

He makes an eloquent and well-argued case for the importance of battlefield psychology and the advantages that can come from a better understanding why people do and don't fight. It may be a controversial case, but it is also a well made [sic] one. --Mark Pack

Product Description

‘This book is the story of how Western armies forgot how to fight real people. It is not about generals and strategies; it is focused on small groups of men in desperate situations and how they use their brains and their bullets to make the enemy surrender.’ The closer people get to war the less they like it. The human brain is hard-wired with a primal, almost imperceptible aversion to killing and an intense aversion to being killed. In order to win wars, vast effort and uncountable sums have been expended to try and quash these reactions in our soldiers. For years, this research focused on two questions: ‘Who fights?’ and ‘How can we make more people fight?’ In Brains & Bullets, military psychologist Leo Murray argues that, given the right conditions, everybody fights. Change those conditions, however, and almost everybody will stop fighting. If we really want to win wars, the question we ought to be asking is: ‘How do we make the enemy stop fighting?’ Interweaving intense first-hand accounts of combat with the hard science of tactical psychology, this extensively researched study offers a fascinating insight into what war does to the human mind. Most crucially, it also suggests a new way to approach military conflict – one which comes too late to change the outcome of the war in Afghanistan, but which may well have a profound effect on the future of modern warfare.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 712 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Biteback Publishing (28 Mar 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #293,137 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life is very short ... 21 May 2013
... and there's no time for fussing or fighting my friend. So said Lennon & McCartney in "We Can Work It Out". But basically that's what this book is about -- fussing and fighting, and from it we can work out what makes some soldiers fuss or fight more than others. I've got no military experience and have never bashed a square in my life (perish the thought) but having picked up this book I'm finding it very hard to put down. The reason? It's just so well written! In a straightforward, no-nonsense style, the author has taught me a lot about what makes armies tick -- from the foot soldiers at the sharp-end to the brass-hats at the blunt end. Covering such concepts as "weapon pull", "social loafing" and the "Is It Worth It? Calculation" the reader gets a privileged insight into the world of the combat psychologist. War movies and video wargames will never seem the same again but then, that's probably a good thing. I'm recommending this to anyone with even a passing interest in combat or military history. It's one of the clearest, best-written books I've seen in ages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent and very readable book which tries to put some hard numbers on a variety of psychological tactics that can be used to persuade your own troops to fight and the enemy to give up.

This is an excellent work on what happens in combat and why. It is very readable, structured into bite sized chunks on each of the key phenomena and then some joining up when it has all been explained. Each chapter opens with an account from a real soldier who experienced that psychological effect in combat. This is then analysed and explained, pulling in other examples as required to show that it isn't an isolated incident but a general effect. Those examples range from the Napoleonic Wars right up to operations in Afghanistan, and they're the products of proper scientific research not just a collection of war stories from unreliable sources.

That said there is no need to be an operational researcher, or scientist to understand the book. The language used is straightforward and direct, each of the concepts is very well explained and it forms an excellent introductory work as well as being well researched. The target audience is ordinary people without a technical or military background (although the author hopes that many military officers and civil servants will read it and think about it). Here's my favourite line from the end of the book "if you are paid to be a military analyst, don’t forget that you work for the Crown (or the people) and for soldiers. You owe no allegiance to your cost centre manager. Crack on."

If you do have a serious interest then it is worth saying that this isn't fluffy pop psychology (I like those as light reading, having read Psychology at uni).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Insight into Low-Level Combat 7 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this book totally absorbing, as it seeks to describe the psychology of people in combat and how the use of certain weapons and tactics achieves quite specific and relatively predictable results. The author is clear at all points that his aim is to produce information useable by people in combat, so it seeks to show and quantify the exact effect of carrying out a flank attack or how long the effects of artillery suppression are likely to last. It also seeks to answer specific questions like exactly how much fire you need to suppress a given enemy and keep him suppressed, or why combined arms attacks are more likely to work, even if that only means combining the effects or rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers. Crucially, the author is prepared to put numbers on all of this (although there are no difficult calculations in the book itself!). For those interested more widely in the study of tactical psychology, there is plenty of discussion/critique of the work of SLA Marshal and Ardant du Picq, amongst others.

The writing is clear, the tone is engaging and the author uses lots of illustrative examples and his explanations are easy to follow at all times.

The author explicitly refrains from advocating specific tactical solutions as a result of his work - rather, he hopes that by putting the information out there then soldiers will be able to use the knowledge to devise more effective tactics. I'd expect that the information in this work will suggest several refinements to existing low-level tactical procedures.

Although nothing in the book contradicts any tactical instruction that I'm aware of, I imagine that there are two areas which might prove controversial.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, intuitive, thought provoking 10 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Mr Murray writes compellingly and convincingly. The chapters on force and the application are well considered and do make the eloquent point that the increased lethality of weapon systems does not make the victory. Further, that the 'old sweats' who wouldn't accept a smaller than 4 man fire trench had a more than valid point. The effect of surprise and proffering of options to the 'enemy' was eye opening and amusingly presented as well as being evidenced with interesting and relevant example.

Overall an amusing but compelling and informative read that provides food for thought and should be required reading for Lance Corporals and above, as well as those with an interest in the psychology of battle. Recommended.
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