Despite how easy it is to shoot a zombie in a video game, it turns out that in real life we’re not all natural born killers. In fact, according to Dave Grossman’s seminal work about the psychological cost of taking another person’s life, On Killing, more than 75% of us wouldn’t fire a fatal shot at our enemy even if our own lives depended on it.
Grossman observes that the traditional fight-or-flight model is too simplistic when dealing with violence within a single species, and a more accurate breakdown is: fight, flee, posture or submit.
“Piranhas and rattlesnakes will bite anything and everything, but among themselves piranhas fight with raps of their tails, and rattlesnakes wrestle.”
With mountains of evidence from past and current military conflicts, On Killing proves that it’s not a matter of cowardice that makes people passive, but an unconscious drive for survival of the species. Soldiers are willing to risk great danger to themselves to rescue others, gather supplies, or run messages, but these same men purposefully aim high when firing on the enemy.
Before you discount Grossman’s book, take note that it is required reading in a wide range of U.S. law enforcement and military institutions, including the FBI Academy, DEA Academy, United State Marine Corps, Airforce Academy and West Point.
So to the extent that our subconscious minds register the walking dead as another member of the human race, zombie survival isn’t going to be nearly as easy as a shotgun and ready ammunition. Even if you’re ready to go out guns blazing, chances are most of the rest of your group won’t even fire a single shot on target.