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How Science May Prevent School Shootings - Dr. James Kimmel Jr.

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Dr. James Kimmel Jr., lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, founder and co-creator of the Yale Collaborative for Motive Control Studies, and the developer of the behavioral addiction model of violence joins Dr. Phil on the Phil in the Blanks podcast to discuss how science may prevent school shootings. “The human brain on revenge looks almost identical to the human brain on drugs,” Dr. Kimmel says. Hear what Dr. Kimmel says he believes transforms a good person into a killer and how his research has been able to provide a missing piece to the puzzle when it comes to mass shootings.


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Dr. James Kimmel Jr., who researches violence prevention, motive, and revenge cravings, joins Dr. Phil to discuss how science may prevent school shootings.


  • "I think more important is what the FBI and Secret Service are missing. That is the piece of the puzzle that we've been able to provide, which is "what happens when somebody has a grievance." Dr. James Kimmel Jr.

  • "What neuroscience, brain imaging fMRI studies are showing is that a grievance triggers a craving in the brain for retaliation for justice in the form of revenge." Dr. James Kimmel Jr.

  • "This new insight that science is bringing to the picture that is showing that grievance, triggering retaliation triggers a desire for revenge, for pleasure. In other words, the human brain on revenge looks almost identical to the human brain on drugs." Dr. Phil

  • "Ultimately, the only thing that resolves a grievance and restores peace, happiness and health is a decision to forgive." Dr. James Kimmel Jr.

  • "It's tragic to me that so many people don't have those built-in resources, whatever they are, or that sense of spirituality that's critical to be able to stop. But I'll say, even people that have all those resources, they sometimes go right through the red light and they commit that act of violence." Dr. James Kimmel Jr.

  • "Most of the violence is being perpetrated by good people who have a grievance and get caught up in this addictive process of revenge-seeking." Dr. James Kimmel Jr.

  • "There is a power in forgiveness. " Dr.Phil

  • "If I can forgive them, I set myself free. That cell I'm in, locks from the inside. I can let myself out if I choose if I decide to forgive and move on. " Dr. Phil

  • "That's the miracle of letting the past go and setting yourself free that can be performed by anybody, anywhere." Dr. Phil

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More About James Kimmel, Jr., J.D.

James Kimmel, Jr., J.D., is a psychiatry lecturer, violence researcher, lawyer, social theorist, and novelist who focuses on the intersections of law, neuroscience, psychology, spirituality, violence, and addiction. He received his doctorate in jurisprudence from the University of Pennsylvania and his B.S. degree summa cum laude from the Schreyer Honors College of the Pennsylvania State University. He is the founder and a Co-Director of the Yale Collaborative for Motive Control Studies; developer of the Behavioral Addiction Model of Grievance, Revenge, and Violence; developer of the nonjustice construct of grievance resolution and violence prevention; and developer of the Nonjustice System ("Miracle Court") virtual courthouse and mock trial role play intervention for healing from victimization and controlling revenge cravings. He is a leader in expanding local, state, and national gun violence threat risk and reduction initiatives to include public behavioral health motive control strategies -- new prevention and treatment approaches for reducing the desire to abuse guns by controlling the revenge cravings that arise out of grievances and perceived victimization. He created the Revenge Attack Warning Signs and First Aid, Violence Risk Identification and Disruption (V-RID), and Violence Interruption Court (VIC) models for violence threat identification and disruption using motive control strategies, and the Teen Court motive control model for bullying prevention in schools. He created, the first-of-it’s-kind website suicide prevention style website aimed at preventing murders and mass shootings. He co-founded and directed an evidence-based forensic peer support program in Pennsylvania utilizing, in part, the Nonjustice System for criminal justice-involved individuals with serious mental illnesses in Pennsylvania jails and prisons. He is the author of Suing for Peace: A Guide for Resolving Life's Conflicts (Hampton Roads, 2005), which first identified violence as a form of behavioral addiction, and The Trial of Fallen Angels, a novel, about a lawyer of souls in the afterlife (New York: Penguin Random House/Putnam 2012). He was featured with Bob Costas and Franco Harris in the motion picture documentary 365 Days: A Year in the Life of Happy Valley(2014) about the Penn State University Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. He was also featured in the book Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune by Tiffany Watt Smith (Little, Brown, 2018).

SAVINGCAIN.ORG Research scientists have discovered that when we have been hurt or wronged, the desire to harm others activates the same pleasure centers of the brain activated by narcotics.

This suggests that the desire to kill is a biological craving created inside the brain. If you are thinking about killing, you are not "evil." Justice-Seeking as Root Cause of Violence:

Kimmel, J., Jr., Rowe, M., A Behavioral Addiction Model of Revenge, Violence, and Gun Abuse, Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 48 S2 (2020): 172-178 (explaining how neuroscience and behavioral studies are beginning to reveal that the desire for revenge in response to grievances activates the same neural reward-processing circuitry as that of substance addiction and that a behavioral addiction framework may be appropriate for understanding and addressing violent behavior, including significant benefits from leveraging scientific and public health-oriented drug abuse prevention and treatment strategies that target drug cravings to prevent and treat violent behavior) Rowe, M., Kimmel, Jr., J., et al, A Pilot Study of Motive Control to Reduce Vengeance Cravings, Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and The Law 46(4) 2018, Dec. 18 (compiling multiple studies, CDC and FBI data demonstrating that the desire for justice in the form of revenge or retaliation is the primary motive behind most acts of violence)

James Gilligan, M.D., Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes (New York: Putnam 1996) 11-12 (“The first lesson that tragedy teaches…is that all violence is an attempt to achieve justice, or what the violent person perceives as justice, for himself or for whomever it is on whose behalf he is violent…. Thus, the attempt to achieve and maintain justice, or to undo or prevent injustice, is the one and only universal cause of violence.”)

Justice-Seeking as Craving/Addiction:

Kimmel, J., Jr., Rowe, M., A Behavioral Addiction Model of Revenge, Violence, and Gun Abuse, Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 48 S2 (2020): (NOTE: SAME AS ABOVE)

Rowe, M., Kimmel, Jr., J., et al, A Pilot Study of Motive Control to Reduce Vengeance Cravings, Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and The Law 46(4) 2018, Dec. 18 (compiling multiple studies demonstrating that the desire for revenge (justice) is a powerful craving that activates the same neural circuitry in the brain as the desire for narcotics; also demonstrating the effectiveness of the Nonjustice System method in reducing revenge cravings)

Dominique Quervain et al, The Neural Basis of Altruistic Punishment, Science 27 August 2004, 305; 1254-58 (In 2004, Swiss researchers discover that the dorsal striatum—the part of the human brain that processes rewards such as the pleasure derived from desserts, desire, and narcotics—is also activated when humans inflict punishments upon wrongdoers. Using positron emission tomography, the scientists were able to observe the brains of human subjects during games in which they could use money units needed to win a game to punish other players who violated their trust.