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Evil in Mind

The Psychology of Harming Others

Christopher T. Burris

Publication Date - April 2022

ISBN: 9780197637180

200 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

Offers a systematic, research-based understanding of the phenomenon of evil for an accessible and potentially transformative read.


What is evil? Who does evil things? Who is evil? How do you know? Whether in response to witnessing mass suffering or feeling the sting of personal injustice, people confidently apply the "evil" label to perpetrators and the harm that they inflict, yet evil's essence remains mysterious to many.

This book offers readers an accessible, social-scientific definition and analysis of evil in its various incarnations to foster a sophisticated and self-reflective understanding of the phenomenon, departing from ghoulish or self-righteous generalizations. Part 1 explores why most of us want to be seen as good, when and why we deem something evil, and what psychological and environmental factors increase our propensity for harming others in spite of our drive for social acceptance. Part 2 presents illustrative examples of how Part 1's insights can be applied, specifically examining hate, sadism, serial killers, group-based atrocities, organizational offenses, and familial abuse. The concluding chapter amplifies and integrates the book's big themes to foster a more mindful, informed confrontation of the elusive problem we call evil.

Evil in Mind delivers a systematic, research-based psychological understanding of evil that is compact, digestible, and potentially transformative for academics, students, and educated lay readers.


  • Offers a social-scientific definition of evil that departs from oversimplication and generalizations
  • Examines psychological and environmental factors that increase the likelihood of harm-causing behavior
  • Presents the subject accessibly for students, academics, and educated lay readers

About the Author(s)

Christopher T. Burris is a Professor of Psychology at St. Jerome's University, in the University of Waterloo, Canada. In addition to creating and teaching a course on the psychology of evil for over two decades, Dr. Burris contributes to courses in the psychologies of good, religion, and death and dying. His published research has spanned the breadth of human experience--from the self, consciousness, afterlife beliefs, atheism, and from sadism, hate, and evil to empathy. The sum of these efforts, he hopes, is to contribute to a greater understanding of some of life's big issues.


"impressive and fascinating ... an intellectually profound yet highly readable book about evil that will capture and enlighten the reader" -- Fabio Sani, Chair of Social and Health Psychology, School of Social Sciences, University of Dundee

"provocative and thought-provoking... Evil in Mind is a compelling read that leaves one with disquieted inspiration" -- Katherine Aumer, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Social Sciences Division, The University of Hawai'i, West O'ahu

"an intriguing psychological excursion into not only evil's origins and varieties, but also why we label particular people and behaviors as 'evil' in the first place" -- Mark Leary, Garonzik Family Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Duke University

"By daring and assisting you to comprehend what motivates causing or condemning harm, Evil in Mind will have you thinking about the nature of evil for a long time" -- Leonard S. Newman, Associate Professor of Psychology, Syracuse University

"a deep, comprehensive, multiculturally attentive dive that establishes a psychological paradigm for how we perceive, think about, and evaluate evil" -- Richard D. Harvey, Associate Professor of Psychology, St. Louis University

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1 - What Is "Evil"
    Chapter 2 - "Evildoers": Who (or What) Earns the Title?
    Chapter 3 - The "Mark of Cain"
    Chapter 4 - Becoming Evil

    Chapter 5 - Hate
    Chapter 6 - Sadism
    Chapter 7 - Serial Killers
    Chapter 8 - Organized Evil

    Chapter 9 - "Evil" Spelled Backwards Is...?