Brain Sciences


Dr Julia Shaw explores the deviance that lies in us all in a new book

14 February 2019

In the book ‘Making Evil – The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side’ Dr Julie Shaw, UCL Psychology and Language Sciences, investigates the darkest recesses of the human mind and why we think and do bad things.

Dr Julia Shaw

Dr Shaw shows us that the same dispositions that make us capable of heinous crimes may also work to our advantage.

She uses a mix of science, popular culture and real-life examples to break down fascinating and important issues. How similar is your brain to a psychopath’s? How many people have murder fantasies? Do your sexual proclivities make you a bad person? Who becomes a terrorist? And, if evil is within all of us, should it be said to exist at all?

“I have always been fascinated by why people do bad things, but it was my university students who really taught me to love the discourse that is generated when we open concepts we associate with evil up for discussion,” said Dr Shaw.

She said she spent two years encouraging her students to try and understand psychopaths, murderers, terrorists, and corporate wrongdoers with a combination of perspective-taking exercises and by reading up on scientific research.

“Ultimately when we talk about evil we find ourselves discovering our own attitudes towards morality, and learn how to engage with the darkness that lurks within ourselves. We all need to talk about difficult issues a lot more.

“By reading Making Evil, you get to explore these issues without judgement. You can meditate on evil, but with more humour and while breaking open a barrage of taboos to take a look at what they are really made of,” explained Dr Shaw.

Dr Shaw is a researcher in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at UCL. Her academic work, teaching and role as an expert witness have focussed on different ways of understanding criminal behaviour. Dr Shaw has also consulted as an expert on criminal cases, delivered police-training and military workshops, and has evaluated offender diversion programs.

Dr Shaw will be on a book tour around the UK in up coming months. She will also be heading to Canada for talks at the end of February and to Australia for a book tour in August.