What motivates a serial killer ?


What is psychology?

Psychology is the study of behavior and mind, embracing all aspects of human experience. The field was first brought to the public by many of the ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Romans Indians, Egyptians and many more. The idea of psychology arose from the Chinese way of Confucianism and laconism. In psychology, scientist work on and observe how the brain reacts in different situation and what emotions the brain feels while doing these things. Theories are the fundamental building block for a lot of research that goes on in the psychology world. Many of the theories have been tested and proven and many are just theories that cannot be tested.

Famous Psychologist?

¨ Sigmund Frued

¨ B.F Skinner

¨ Jean Piget

¨ Abraham Maslow

¨ Ivan Pavlov

¨ Wilhelm Wundt

Why is Psychology important when studying a serial killer?

There are five lessons scientist say people should learn about Serial killers:

1. Murderers rarely fit the mold of "Monsters"

2. There's no such thing as a "senseless killing"

3. Murders are profoundly damaged

4. The worst criminals can be the most capable of change

5. Evaluations are incredibly draining.

When researching serial killers you will almost always come across a psychologist who has studied that persons thoughts, emotions and actions. Why is that? People are very intrigued by what triggered the sudden urge of killing in serial killers. It’s interesting to try to learn how they think and why it’s so different from the way we think. We being what society considers normal people. Not that the idea is far fetched. The only way to try to stop the act of serial killing is to find out how their brain works and what triggers them to react in such an ruthless manor.

What is a serial Killer?

: A person who murders three or more people, usually in an abnormal way and receives gratification from those acts of killing. These killings usually take place over a course of a month, sometimes having a “cooling off” period. Most acts of serial killing involve sexual contact with the victims. Many victims have one or more traits in common being age, race, height and educational background. There are many motives behind these abnormal acts of violence such as money, power and most commonly revenge. Psychologist are not completely sure but it is believed that serial killer’s childhood has a lot to do with the way the act as an adult. Many are abused physically and emotionally as a child. Being abused can effect the way a person perceive things. It can cause them to think irrational

Famous serial Killers and the crimes they committed:

Jeffrey Dahmer: American serial killer who raped, dismembered and killed each of his victims.. He began his killing spree in 1978 and ended it in 1991. Many of the later murders involved necrophilia( an Sexual act with a corpse) and cannibalism.

Dahmer’s childhood was filled with tension between his parents, he received little attention from them. He was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder and a psychotic disorder. He was very fascinated as a youth with dead animals and how to preserve their bones. As Dahmer became a teenager he began to drink heavily, Many of his peers recognized it. Dahmer shrugged it off and said it was his “medicine”. At about the age of 16 he found out that he was homosexual and would from time to time fantasized about sexual encounters and being dominant and controlling over his partner. Those thoughts soon became intertwined with the thoughts of brutal homicides.

Ed Gein: American serial killer and grave thief who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Gein would go around from grave to grave digging up dead bodies of women who resembled his mother and take them home for himself. He also shot two women, hung them upside down like a deer, decapitated, and skinned them. Gein would cut off the parts of a women’s body he wanted, preserve it and sew it into a suit that he would sometimes wear under “women-like” clothes and go out.

Gein’s childhood was filled with an alcoholic dad and a religious mother who constantly embedded In his head “all women are naturally prostitutes and instruments of the devil." Gein and his mother had an abnormal relationship, many referred to her as his one true love. After she died, Gein was left all alone which is when he began to have fantasies about digging up dead bodes and killing women who reminded him of his mother.

  • John Wayne Gacy (Serial Killer who posed as a clown, raped/killed young boys)
  • Ted Bundy(Serial killer who kidnapped,raped and killed numerous women)
  • Aileen Wuornos(Killed several men because she was abused by numerous family members as a child)
  • Gary Heidnik & Harrison Graham (subject of the movie silence of the lambs)
The Psychology of Serial Killers

Gender differentiation

  • Middle and upper class Caucasian women
  • Killed between 3-10 victims
  • More likely to murder family members
  • Money is the motive
  • Had multiple "Cooling off" periods
  • Crimes stretched over and years and years, 80% longer than men
  • Majority were educated
  • Poison is the most common means to murder
  • 50% worked in health related fields
  • Married at some point
  • 44% Killed their own children


  • Ethnicity of killer varied
  • Killed between 3-25 victims
  • Mostly killed strangers
  • Motive ranged from angered daze to revenge
  • Crimes usually stretched over 10-13 years
  • Basic educational level
  • Tactics varied when it comes to the means of killing the victim
  • Hard for many to find and or keep job
  • Antisocial for the most part, never married or in a long relationship

Psychological Connection:

Scientist believe the cause of psychopathy is either nature of nurture or the trait is passed down genetically.

The Minnesota study of Twins reared apart showed scientist that psychopathy is 60% heritable. That finding lead scientist to study psychopaths brain and find abnormalities in them. The university of Wisconsin, Madison, brain scan revealed that psychopathy in criminals was associated with decreased connectivity between the amygdala and the VMPFC which affects the way one feels strongly negative emotions. That relates close to serial killers because they do not suffer from emotional hurt and or do not feel embarrassed when caught doing something considered bad. Although the brain scan was break through, it is still unknown what triggers serial killers to kill and what makes cause the reduced connectivity.


Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"25 Of The Most Evil Serial Killers You Have Ever Known (How Can People Be This Messed Up?)." List25. 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2016.
"Jeffrey Dahmer." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.
"Ed Gein: Real American Psycho." Ed Gein: Real American Psycho. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
Harrison, Marissa. "How Evolutionary Psychology May Explain the Difference between Male and Female Serial Killers." The Conversation. Web. 25 Mar. 2016.

Shonaziea Goss: Psychology project

In this news letter you will learn about serial killers and how being psychologically damaged can create a "monster" in society.