Serial killers have long captivated the public’s imagination with their shocking and senseless acts of violence. But what drives individuals to commit such heinous crimes? In an effort to answer this question, psychologists and criminologists have been exploring the complex interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors that can contribute to the development of a serial killer.
While there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for why someone becomes a serial killer, research has shed light on several key factors that can increase the likelihood of violent behaviour.
One of the most well-known biological factors is brain structure and chemistry. Studies have shown that a malfunctioning amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for regulating emotions and aggression, may be involved in the development of violent behaviour. Additionally, low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, have also been linked to impulsive and violent behaviour. This means that a serial killer’s brain structure and chemistry can play a significant role in their behaviour, leading to an increased likelihood of violence.
Childhood abuse and trauma are also important factors in the development of serial killers. Childhood abuse can have lasting effects on an individual’s mental and emotional health, and research has suggested that individuals who experienced childhood abuse are more likely to engage in violent behaviour compared to those who did not experience abuse. In some cases, this abuse can lead to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can further increase the likelihood of violent behaviour.
Personality disorders also play a role in the development of serial killers. Serial killers often display a range of personality disorders, including antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), narcissistic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
ASPD, in particular, is characterised by a lack of empathy and a willingness to engage in criminal behaviour, making it a key factor in the development of serial killers. These personality disorders can lead individuals to become detached from reality and engage in violent behaviour.
Social and environmental factors also play a role in the development of serial killers. Growing up in dysfunctional families or communities where violence is common can increase the likelihood of violent behaviour. Exposure to violent media, such as films and video games, has also been linked to an increased likelihood of violent behaviour. This exposure can desensitise individuals to violence and normalise it in their minds, leading to an increased likelihood of violent behaviour.
The psychology of serial killers is complex and multifaceted, and it is unlikely that any one factor can fully explain why someone becomes a serial killer. Instead, it is likely that a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors contribute to the development of violent behaviour.
A 2022 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health explored the psychological profiles of serial killers and found that they often share several key characteristics. These include a lack of empathy, a history of childhood abuse and trauma, a desire for control, and a fascination with death and violence. The study also found that serial killers often display traits of both psychopathy and sadism, suggesting that these two personality disorders may be key factors in the development of serial killers.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology looked at the role of childhood abuse in the development of serial killers. The study found that childhood abuse is a strong predictor of violent behaviour and can have lasting effects on an individual’s mental and emotional health. The study also found that individuals who experienced childhood abuse are more likely to engage in violent behaviour, including serial murder.
Knowing what makes a serial killer tick is crucial in stopping them from striking again. Researchers are diving into the mix of biological, psychological, and social factors to figure out why some people feel the urge to kill multiple times. This understanding can then be used to create better prevention strategies and help with future investigations.
Finding out why serial killers do what they do can also bring comfort to victims’ families and help society tackle violent crime in a more complete way. The study of serial killer psychology is ongoing and full of new discoveries. By looking into the complicated nature of serial murder, researchers are working towards a world without these horrible crimes.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.