Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology

By Robert P. Abelson; Kurt P. Frey et al. | Go to book overview

28
The Wrath
of the Rejected:
Being Shut Out
Makes One Lash Out

“Mo man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. ”

—John Donne (1572–1631), English metaphysical poet


BACKGROUND

One sunny morning in April 2000, two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, arrived at their high school a little later than usual. Their goal that fateful day was to murder as many of their classmates and teachers as possible. Dressed in black trenchcoats, and carrying two duffel bags stuffed with firearms and explosives, they gleefully embarked on a killing spree. Within 15 minutes, they had slaughtered 13 people, and wounded a further 21. Had all their explosives detonated as intended, the death toll would have been several times greater. Half an hour later, cornered by police, and knee-deep in human carnage, Harris and Klebold turned their guns on themselves.

Whenever something very bad, unexpected, or out-of-the-ordinary happens, people want to know why (Pyszczynski & Greenberg, 1981). The massacre at Columbine high school is a case in point. In the days and weeks following the tragedy, the question on everybody's lips was: Why? Why did two students try to wipe out an entire school? What made them believe that such ghastly acts were worth committing? What fanned the flames of their hatred, and led them to express it in such an indiscriminate way?

-326-

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