When Killers Target Kids

The Science of Empathy Grapples with the Unthinkable

As shock gives way to mourning and to attempts to make sense of an unthinkable act of violence in Newtown, Connecticut–an event that’s sadly less isolated than we would hope–we offer some insights from psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, who wrote an essay on why killers target kids, and the science of empathy, for Zócalo in April.

On July 22, 2011, 33-year-old Anders Behring Breivik killed 69 people, most of them teenagers, on the island of Utøya in Norway. On March 19, 2012, 23-year-old Mohammed Merah shot and killed a teacher and three young …