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COM 102/1 —Spring 2015 Anh Doan

Anthony Marais Writing assignment #1

The Psychology of Homicide

An analysis of In Cold Blood’s two main characters
Anh Doan
Anglo-American University


fast and cold-blooded. Hickcock was a potential student in his school years. The murder was in the night. and not preceded by a potent affective reaction) or “cold-blooded” in nature. married two wives and fathered three sons in five years. As Capote (1966) stated in his book. the Clutter family was murdered by Richard Eugene Hickcock and Perry Edward Smith for approximately 40 dollars. in Holcomb. which causes “extreme negative impacts” and is most different from others (Woodworth & Porter.COM 102/1 —Spring 2015 Anh Doan Anthony Marais Writing assignment #1 Introduction Diagnosing the behaviours and psychology of murderers when convicting the crime is difficult due to the lack of understanding about this form of antisocial behaviour.2).e. associated with premeditation. a pair of binoculars.p. Smith suffered a traumatic childhood with a violent father. the Kansas. motivated by an external goal. which inspired Truman Capote to investigate the most shocking murder in 1950s in his nonfiction novel. whereas homicides committed by non-psychopaths often would be “crimes of passion” associated with a high level of impulsivity/reactivity and emotionality”. an alcoholic mother and was 2 . where he met Smith. The present analysis of the “Clutter murder” case is conducted to define its two murderers’ form of homicide suggested by Woolworth and Porter (2002) including psy- chopathic homicide and non-psychopathic homicide. ended six human lives ” (p.436). in which “the homicides committed by psychopathic offenders would be more likely to be primarily instrumental (i. “In cold blood” (1966). and a radio.four shotgun blasts that. “at the time not a soul in sleeping Holcomb heard them . all told. which was only known by police’s investigations and Dick and Perry’s confessions in the book.. unfortunately could not go to college and later had to work as a mechanic. and eventually was in prison for cheating and robbery. Fifty years ago. 2002 .

437). Richard Eugene Hickcock (Dick) In the Clutter family murder. the average subject. Unlike Perry. he was very intelligent. Regarding Dick’s actions during the murder. In the 3 . which means in this case. An I.COM 102/1 —Spring 2015 Anh Doan Anthony Marais Writing assignment #1 physically and emotionally abused by nuns until he was sentenced as a street criminal and with Hickcock planned for the crime. scores between 90 and 110” (p.and later convinced Perry. In Capote’s novel (1966).20).153). However. test taken in prison gave him a rating of 130. he is a form of instrumental/reactive (3rd type) on the Likert-type scale. and the homicide was part of his instrumental act (Woodworth & Porter. Purely instrumental type is the carefully-planning homicide. Perry Edward Smith Perry is a confusing character in real life as well as in the novel/ movie. Moreover. he first decided to visit the Clutter . Hickcock showed his characteristics as a instrumental psychopathic offender.439). As stated by Woolworth and Porter (2002) “instru- mental or “proactive” violence occurs when the injury of an individual is secondary to the acquisition of some other external goal…. which is considered to be a non-violent goal. p. 1966. he experienced a normal upbringing and pursued the Clutter murder for money. 2002. in prison or out. which was depicted as emotional. and in the movie. Dick forced him to violate and kill the Clutter family as “The glory of having everybody at his mercy. Q. that's what excited him” ( Capote.437).and violence as a means to achieve an other- wise nonviolent goal. sympathetic and extremely effected by his tragic childhood. Hickcock did not know about the Clutter before the murder since the victims of instrumental offender are often strangers whereas reactive violence are caused by arousal or anger towards victims that have close relationship with the offenders (Woodworth & Porter. p. 2002 . he planned for an obvious external goal (mon- ey). Dick is described as a practical. p. such as money or drugs” (p. manipulative. some believed that he is purely instrumental type as in Perry’s confession. and smart: “Actually. which Dick and Perry first did not expect.

In fact. which forced him to kill the Clutter ư because “it is also possible that given their expected pattern of impulsivity. the kind that made him know his subjects inti- mately and feel responsible for their fate” (Zulaika . details about the crime may be imprecise due to the lack of witnesses.COM 102/1 —Spring 2015 Anh Doan Anthony Marais Writing assignment #1 novel. psychopathic offenders might have perpetrated spontaneous and reactive murders” (Woodworth & Porter. Conclusion Smith and Hickcock are two psychopaths that acted both instrumentally and reac- tively in the Clutter murder. Nevertheless. which was considered appropriate to compensate for six lives killed. 2002. which prevented him from killing the Clutter. “what he had gone through was simply excessive witnessing. 4 . the possibly vague testimony of two offenders. he is still a psychopathic type. as Dick claimed. which was stated in Terrorism: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. 2002. However. his action in the homicide was unplanned and in some moments.439). even though in the movie. Eventually.154). Smith and Hickcock received the death penalty. he experi- enced flashbacks of his childhood and was under Hickcock’s pressure of finding money and killing victims. others doubted that Perry might not participate in the homicide if Dick had not been involved. p. he developed sympathy towards the vic- tims. p. 2009. He is identified as a re- active-instrumental type (2nd type ) on the Likert-type scale since the homicide was un- planned/reactive and Perry robbed the victim as well (Woodworth & Porter.58). Perry was proved to experience psychological disorder as he claimed to see flash- backs of his childhood and “was like outside himself” (p.p. He could not be non-psychopathic as a non-psychopathic offender is primarily effected by a sudden anger and desire to revenge and hurt his victims’ feelings while Perry’s case did not possess these characteristics.442). and the development of sympathy and positive emotion of Capote during his investigation towards Smith and Hick- cock.

. In Cold Blood. 1966. 58. Terrorism: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. 5 . Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 111 (3). . Chapter 2.COM 102/1 —Spring 2015 Anh Doan Anthony Marais Writing assignment #1 REFERENCE Capote T. Woodworth M. Zulaika J. 2009. In Cold Blood: Characteristics of Criminal Homicides as a Function of Psychopathy. & Porter S. 2002. 436–445..