The Psychology of Killer Drones – action against our foes; reaction affecting us

From the archives.
It describes America today more than it did when written in September 2011.

Summary: GI WIlson explains that we now have enough experience with drone warfare to study its effects. Just as in physics, our actions affect ourselves as well as our targets. Social science research shows that drones are a gateway to moral disengagement dehumanization, and deindividuation. The great distances drones operate over, manipulated by faceless-nameless-lawyeristic-voyeurs, creates an emotional, mental, and physical divide between “us” ( i.e. our government) and the enemies we kill. Drones allow us to dissociate our actions from our values, a useful high-cost and high-tech justification. At the end are links to gain more information about this new form of warfare.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
— Newtons Third Law of Motion, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687)

Flying Terminator
From The Terminator (not written as history)


  1. Moral Disengagement
  2. Dehumanization
  3. Deindividuation
  4. Articles about UAV’s
  5. Other posts about UAVs
  6. References

(1) Moral Disengagement

Bandura studied the behaviour of individuals engaging in destructive activities towards others, describing it as “moral disengagement”. “People do not generally act out destructively unless they have a mechanism to morally justify their actions to themselves and others” Moral disengagement encompasses ways one mitigates, justifies, neutralizes, or eliminates inhibitions or moral constraints connected to committing acts of violence or a crime. Bandura holds that people use moral disengagement techniques such as “cognitive reconstruction and dehumanization to view certain despicable acts or conduct as justifiable or rational” (Bandura, 2004).

McAlister, Bandura, & Owen (2006) describe four behavioural prongs of moral disengagement associated with violence particularly as it pertains to the military. The four prongs are moral justification, minimization of detrimental effects, disavowal of responsibility and dehumanization (McAlister, Bandura, & Owen, 2006):

At the behaviour locus, people transform lethal means into benevolent and moral ones through moral justification, advantageous comparison, and sanitizing language. At the agency locus, they are relieved of a sense of personal accountability by displacement and diffusion of responsibility. At the outcome locus, the injurious effects of lethal means are disregarded, minimized, or disputed. At the other end, foes are dehumanized and blamed for bringing the suffering on themselves (p. 142).

(2) Dehumanization

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