UCC ACE Short courses

Why We Kill: Understanding Human Violence COURSE CLOSED

About This Course

Fact File

  • Title

    Why We Kill: Understanding Human Violence COURSE CLOSED

  • Code


  • College

    Adult Continuing Education

  • Duration

    Eight weeks, Mondays 7-9pm, from 27 January to 16 March 2020

  • Teaching Mode


  • Qualifications

    Cert of Attendance

  • Fees

    €200 See Fees and Costs for full details.

  • Entry Requirements

    See Requirements for full details.

  • Closing Date

    Friday 17 January 2020

  • Venue

    Western Gateway Building, Room G15, UCC

  • Start Date

    Monday 27 January 2020

Course Outline

Why do we kill? Why do some men, women and even children assault, batter, rape, mutilate and murder? Religions and every discipline of the natural and social science have offered answers.

The topic of violence inspires both abhorrence and fascination. We imprison those who commit violence, yet we are also entertained by it, whether through films, documentaries or detective books. Every day, violence fills our newspapers and TV screens, yet the publics’ understanding of violence is usually lacking. Violence is often put down to biological theories - caused by hormones, genes or brain damage. Sometimes it is claimed that individuals just ‘snap’ while others invoke bad parenting as an explanation.

This course introduces you to the fascinating world of the psychological and sociological explanations of violence. The course explores some of the theories and perspectives which have shaped our understanding of different forms of violence, such as high school mass shootings, assault, murder and even genocide.

The course consists of two hour workshops over the course of eight weeks.

Class 1: The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals  Based on the book The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals, this class explores criminologist Lonnie Athens’s theory of why some people kill and commit serious acts of violence. According to Lonnie Athens, violent individuals are not born, but made.  You will find the case studies in this class ‘fascinating’ (in the words of a previous student!) as we explore the step by step process of how anybody has the potential to become what Lonnie Athens calls a ‘dangerous violent criminal’.

Class 2: The Deaths of Dangerous Violent Criminals  Why do some violent individuals say they have ‘died’ on the inside? We learn about renowned violence expert and psychiatrist James Gilligan’s theory of violence as outlined in his powerful book Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic.
Interestingly, we will use what we have learned to examine the words of violent individuals themselves in describing why they committed violent acts.

Workshop 3: But Words Will Never Hurt Me?  The old adage goes ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’, but is this true? Is all violence physical? We learn about acts of violence that are not physical but hurt deeply nonetheless and which can in fact lead individuals to commit actual physical violence and homicide.

Class 4: Understanding Mass School Shootings   Learn about some of the explanations put forward for mass school shootings in the United States. Do individuals simply ‘snap’? Is gun control the answer? We will examine the writings of school shooters themselves to understand why some young men kill their peers, teachers and themselves.

Workshop 5: How Do Psychologists Study Violence  We learn about the fascinating process of how social psychologists study the relationship between aggression, violence and narcissism through psychological experiments and research.

Workshop 6: What Helps People Commit Violence? We learn some of the other factors that enables people commit violence such as the use of dehumanizing language and images.

Workshop 7: Explaining the Holocaust - The Psychology of Conformity and Obedience to Authority How was Hitler’s Germany able to murder at least six million Jewish people during the Second World War? We learn about how the Holocaust has been explained through the classic social psychological studies on conformity and obedience to authority.

Workshop 8: How to Reduce Violence Ending on a positive note, we learn about some of the optimistic research showing how violence can be reduced in society.


Course Practicalities

Who teaches this course:

Dr. Robert Bolton, School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork.


Short courses are non-assessed

Why Choose This Course

This course is thought in an innovative and interactive manner. Rather than simply transmitting information through the standard lecture model, emphasis is instead placed on Socratic questioning, demonstrations, in class reading, discussion and an examination of images. Thus, the teaching methods employed will cater for students’ diverse learning styles. For example, students will be able to apply some of the tools they learn in class to the words and writings of violent individuals. Students will find this aspect of the course fascinating. They will be able to interrogate and understand the thought process of violent individuals in order to come to more nuanced understandings of violence.
Particularly innovative in this course is the demonstration of how psychologists use different techniques to understand human aggression. Students will be shown the questionnaires used by psychologists and the course tutor will demonstrate, with the help of students themselves, how social psychological studies are conducted.


Students must be minimum eighteen years at course commencement.

Fees and Costs

The fee for this course is €200.

How Do I Apply

The closing date for applications is Friday 17 January 2020. Fees are listed in each course description. Students register and pay fees before course commencement as follows:

1. Register and pay online by clicking the Apply Now button below. Course commencement is subject to sufficient enrolment. In the event of a course not commencing applicants will be informed and their fees will be returned.

2. Payment may also be made by credit or debit card, cheque, postal order or bank draft made payable to UCC and these should be returned together with a completed application form to Short Courses, Adult Continuing Education, The Laurels, Western Road. Application forms are available from the office or they may be downloaded from the link below.

3. Students may also hand in completed application forms to the office at ACE between 9:15am and 5pm each day prior to the closing date. We regret we are unable to accept cash.


Application Form Jan 2020

Contact details for this course

Year 1 Modules

Year 2 Modules

Year 3 Modules

Year 4 Modules

For queries regarding course content or timetables please contact