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What drives someone to commit murder? What makes some people lash out on those that they love? Why do the majority of people with disorders such as schizophrenia live completely non-violent lives, but a very small number cause harm to others? How can we predict whether a child will grow up to be cruel or sadistic, and what can we do to prevent it?

These are just some of the questions that forensic psychiatrist Dr Taj Nathan interrogates every day. Violence and violent behaviour are always in the headlines, and most of us will fall victim to some kind of crime in our lives, but understanding what makes people commit these acts is complex and deeply nuanced. And even though neuroscience has improved our understanding of human behaviour, offering some answers about how the mechanics of our brains produce our thoughts and actions, it has failed to explain why we act.

Drawing on the latest research, on years of psychiatric experience and on dozens of interviews, as well as some of the most famous criminals in history, in Dangerous Minds Dr Nathan sets out on an investigation into what drives violent behaviour – from psychotic to domestic to sadistic. Using key cases that show how forensic psychiatry has developed over the last 200 years, Dr Nathan explores what working with violent offenders has taught him about human nature. From the impact of traumatic events in childhood to the evolutionary and cultural influences on the emergence of the social mind, via a detour into the world of psychopaths, this book is an insider’s account of the origins of violence.