Page |1 PSYCHOLOGY OF SERIAL KILLERS

SERIAL KILLERS BY AMIT JHARBADE IIT GANDHINAGAR

Page |2
ABSTRACT The report gives an insight on the psychological aspects of a serial killer. Beginning with the definitional notion of serial killers, the report presents a brief view on various characteristics of serial killers such as their motives, gender, age, methodologies and some common features found in their victims (age, sex, profession etc). A classification based on serial killers based on their classification is given in brief. It also touches some common folklores and facts and examines them whether they are true or are just myths. Some theories have been presented which tries to unfold the reason behind their behavior, the theories takes the BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL factors into consideration. The question whether serial killers can give up killing is also being addressed.

Page |3
INTRODUCTION Events in the recent past such as Nithari Kand, where more than a dozen innocent children have been brutally murdered and raped, brings the serial killers in the limelight. A Serial killer is defined as an individual who has killed three or more persons over a period of 30 days or more. There is a gap between the consecutive killings called as cooling off period in which they perform their regular activities such as spending time with their spouse, children and plan their next strategy. CLASSIFICATION OF SERIAL KILLERS Basically all serial killers are classified into organized and disorganized killers. An organized serial killer is the one who plans his attack strategically and methodologically. They are supposed to have high intelligence level. They also familiarized with the know-how of forensics which help them to cover their tracks. They choose their victims very carefully, even stalk them for a short period of time so that they know when their victim is alone. These type of serial killers are generally socially adequate with close friends, lovers, spouses, and children. A disorganized serial killer is the one who commit crimes impulsively. They are characterized by a low intelligence level. They rarely dispose of their victim’s body. They are socially inadequate with friends, family and usually they have history of mental problems. Serial killers are driven by their urge to kill as the Edmund Kemper, the serial killer, stated that “It was an urge. … A strong urge, and the longer I let it go the stronger it got, to where I was taking risks to go out and kill people — risks that normally, according to my little rules of operation, I wouldn’t take because they could lead to arrest”[1] . The division of serial killers on the basis of their motives is stated below  Visionary motive type- These type of killers suffers from psychotic breakdowns they believe that they are another person or gods or demons are telling them to do the crimes. David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam, was a serial killer in US who believes that demons through his neighbor’s dog command him to execute the murders .These type of killers suffers from psychotic breakdowns. Mission oriented type- The killer believe that he is cleaning the world by killing some undesirable persons. The killers have a staunch belief that world will be a better place without some peoples such as prostitutes, homosexuals, lesbians or people from other race and ethnicity. So the killer sees his role as the savior of the world. They are non psychotic. Implicit attitudes with stereotype plays an important role in this. The killer unknowingly develops some attitudes which made him to hate certain people with a certain kind of people and his hatred leads him to commit those crimes. The stronger the hatred, the stronger is the urge to kill them. “The women I killed were filth-bastard prostitutes who were littering the streets.I was just cleaning the place up a bit." These were the words of Peter Sutcliffe aka "The Yorkshire Ripper"[2] who is serving life imprisonment for 20 murders and 7 attempted murders. Lust- The main motive behind lust killing is pure sexual pleasure. These killers generally suffers from Paraphilia which is defined as the sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are not part of normative stimulation, this include necrophilia, non-human object and children. The fantasy of the killer plays an important role. Serial killer Ted Bundy stated media violence and pornography had stimulated and increased his need to commit homicide [3]. The level of sexual gratification will depend on the amount of torture and/or mutilation involved

Thrill- The primary motive of the thrill killer is to produce pain or create terror, which provide stimulation and excitement. Adrenaline rush produced by hunting and killing plays an important role. They murder only for the kill; the attack is not prolonged and there is not any sexual aspect to their crimes. They see their crime as perfect and believe they will not be caught. The Zodiac killer was a serial killer in late 70’s whose motive behind killings was thrill and adventure. However his identity is still unknown as he was never get caught.

Page |4
Forensic psychiatrists and FBI agents have tried to get inside the killer’s mind. Traditional explanations include childhood abuse, genetics, chemical imbalances, brain injuries, exposure to traumatic events, and perceived societal injustices. But most of has faced some sort of trauma or similar conditions at one point or another, then why serial killers are different from the rest of us. Having learned the various classification and motives of serial killer, another questions comes into picture. WHY THEY KILL? Various theories have been given to understand the reason behind their behavior. The report tries to explain their behavior in terms of BIO- PSYCHO & SOCIAL factors. BIOLOGICAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS • It has been suggested some serial killers may be suffering from a neurological disorder. This is often due to head trauma they experienced in childhood. The head trauma may damage certain areas of the brain, causing episodic aggressive behavior. Some serial killers have suffered episodes of psychosis, neurosis, and paranoia. Episodes of psychosis involve the individual having some form of break with reality during which they may exhibit dangerous or violent behavior. Neuroses, on the other hand, are less severe and include many of the behaviors associated with personality disorders (Hickey, 1997). Paranoia is the sense that an individual is being endangered, threatened, or plotted against. Paranoia is symptomatic of many neuropsychiatric disorders including senility, seizures, brain damage, and schizophrenia (Lewis, 1998). In neurology, one of the most studied case is the case of Phineas Gage, after mating with an accident in which a rod penetrated his skull, destroying much of his brain's left frontal lobe, although he survived, his behavior after the accident was completely changed, according to his friends he was a completely deferent person. This case proves to be a link between head trauma and behavioral change. The chemical imbalance in the brain also causes abrupt behavior. A Gene called Monoamine oxidase-A (MAOA) also known as the violent gene, is something that has been found in almost all murderers which again emphasize that biological factors plays an important role in the personality and behavioral aspect of a person.

• • •

SOCIAL FACTORS It is known that what we do informs what we have learned and what we learn is what we observe and what we observe is what around us, so the social background plays an important role in determining our behaviour. Several experiments such as Bandura’s bobo doll experiment have been conducted to explain social learning theory. Some of the serial killers have faced abuses in their childhood, so it can be inferred that social factor of the serial killer is an important factor in their behaviour. Based on general perception of peoples about serial killers, problem of labelling comes. People used to label them as insane. However, most serial killers are not insane. Using the legal definition of insanity, the vast majority of serial killers know the difference between right and wrong at the time of commission of the crime. Due to labelling some serial killers have tried to use schizophrenia as a tool for their defense (about 4%of serial killers who get caught). Only 1% of those who used this defense were found not guilty by reason of insanity (Schechter & Everitt, 1996). MYTHS AND FACTS There has been many myths about serial killers, some of which are stated below. Myth: Serial killers are all dysfunctional loners.  The majority of serial killers are not reclusive, social misfits who live alone. They are not monsters and may not appear strange. Many serial killers hide in plain sight within their communities. Serial murderers often have families and homes, are gainfully employed, and

Page |5
appear to be normal members of the community. Because many serial murderers can blend in so effortlessly, they are oftentimes overlooked by law enforcement and the public. Myth: Serial killers are only motivated by sex.  All serial murders are not sexually-based. There are many other motivations for serial murders including anger, thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking. Myth: Serial killers cannot stop killing.  It has been widely believed that once serial killers start killing, they cannot stop. There are, however, some serial killers who stop murdering altogether before being caught. In these instances, there are events or circumstances in offenders’ lives that inhibit them from pursuing more victims. These can include increased participation in family activities, sexual substitution, and other diversions.[5] Myth: All serial murderers travel and operate interstate.  Most serial killers have very defined geographic areas of operation. The few serial killers who do travel interstate to kill fall into a few categories: • Itinerant individuals who move from place to place. • Homeless individuals who are transients. • Individuals whose employment lends itself to interstate or transnational travel, such as truck drivers or those in military service.  The difference between these types of offenders and other serial murderers is the nature of their traveling lifestyle, which provides them with many zones of comfort in which to operate.

CONCLUSION Because of their psychopathic nature, serial killers do not know how to feel sympathy for others, or even how to have relationships. Instead, they learn to simulate normal behavior by observing others. As H.H. Holmes, America’s First Serial Killer.stated that “I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer….I was born with the Evil One standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since.” So it can be stated that some people are born with a darkness in them. The one side of them tell not to commit crime and other side just want to get away with it. As Edmund kemper puts it “One side of me says ‘I’d like to talk to her, date her’. The other side of me says, ‘I wonder how her head would look on a stick’."

Page |6

BIBILOGRAPHY

     

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_killer www.fbi.gov / Reports and Publications www.foxnews.com/us/2011/04/15/serial-killers/ http://themindofaserialkiller.tumblr.com/ http://www.learning-theories.com/ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Kemper

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.