The Violence Paradox

The Violence Paradox

Series 1 - Episode 1

Tomorrow 12am - 12:55am BBC Four


Here’s one of those BBC4 Big Idea series that we’ll miss when they’re gone. It takes as its canvas… the whole of history. The gist is: across the centuries, humankind has become less violent. That seems counter-intuitive: we see murder, war and terrorism around the world and imagine we live in the worst of times. But the series argues the opposite is true: across any number of data sets and countries, violence has steadily declined, yet that rarely makes news.

“You never see a journalist saying, ‘I’m reporting live from a country that’s at peace’,” says Steven Pinker, whose 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature rejected the idea of humans as essentially savage. We can  be aggressive (especially males), like most animals, but we also have empathy circuits deep in our brains, the series argues. A neat experiment with puppets shows babies already have a sense of fairness.


Psychologist Steven Pinker journeys through history and the human mind to explore what triggers violence and how it may have decreased over time. In the first of two programmes, research includes clues from a prehistoric archaeological dig in Kenya, an experiment to test the moral judgement of babies and data analysis of 239 years of Old Bailey proceedings.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Steven Pinker
Executive Producer Julia Cort
Executive Producer Chris Schmidt
Series Producer Melanie Wallace