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Why do people kill?

A brain scan of a normally developed frontal lobe and a serial killer with a shrunken frontal lobe.
A brain scan of a normally developed frontal lobe and a serial killer with a shrunken frontal lobe.

The idea of  taking someone’s life is something that most people can’t comprehend. What can make someone do such a thing?  “Because that’s how they were brought up when they were kids,” “Because they have bad childhoods and bad morals,” and “Mental health issues” are what students at AJMS think about the matter. But are they correct?

Well, there are a lot of common factors that serial killers share that could be a likely reason why serial killers become violent offenders.

There is a very common nature vs nurture debate, and the simplest answer is that there is no definite answer. All serial killers are different but there are many examples of both biological and social factors that contribute to homicidal tendencies.


Biological Factors

According to Psychology Today, one of the most common factors between serial killers is antisocial disorder. Anti-Social disorder can stem from genetic roots. So someone’s DNA can be a likely influence on the development of homicidal tendencies.

In Adrian Raine’s book The Anatomy of Violence, he mentions that a common cause for the development of violent behavior is brain abnormalities. Commonly, serial killers have a shrunken frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls emotions, social activity, and compulsiveness, that can make it easier for them to act recklessly and do the horrible things they do with lack of empathy.         


Social Factors

Psychology Today also states that this violence can be learned behavior from abusive events, childhood, parents, etc. An example of this is The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez. From a young age, Richard was exposed to graphic violent imagery and details of war crimes from his military veteran cousin. Richard also experienced that family member shooting himself and another family member during a heated argument. This type of exposure to violence could have affected Richard’s violent tendencies as an adult.

An Edubirdie essay on serial killers also states that bullying from either family or school peers can cause pent-up aggression and a desire for revenge that can lead to violence.


Common Characteristics 

Some common similarities between serial killers can help determine some causes of why they are the way they are.

According to Psychology Today serial killers are rarely found legally insane but FBI Gov. mentions that common diagnoses are psychosis, schizophrenia, or another personality disorder or psychopathy.

There is also a set of common behaviors that serial killers often share, which Psychology Today says are being manipulative, easily influenced, having a false sense of self-worth, superficially charming, and pathologically lying. Others include lack of empathy, disregard for laws, lack of remorse, and antisocial tendencies, the need for dominance and fantasizing.

Healthline describes the most common early signs of a killer, referred to as The MacDonald Triad. The Macdonald Triad is something serial killers often share. The Macdonald Triad consists of animal cruelty, fire setting, and bedwetting. Animal cruelty can be an early sign of a lack of empathy and a sign of a high tendency for violence. Kids who do this from a young age often do this when they have no control over their situations, they look for dominance and control in defenseless animals. 

Fire setting is a sign of a violent and unhealthy way to let out aggression that can lead to more violent tendencies. 

Finally, bedwetting is a sign of humiliation that can bring on the other triads. For example, the humiliation that someone would get from neglectful parents that would lead them to hurt an animal or start a fire is the same humiliation Bedwetting can give can bring on that same aggression.

In the end, there is no definite answer to what causes all killers because every person is different with different life experiences and genetics. But there are many characteristics that killers share in common that can affect them and potentially lead them to become violent offenders.

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  • J

    josueJan 9, 2024 at 12:57 pm

    Something that I learned about this is that many serial killers share common signs when their young

  • E

    Erick GuatemalaJan 9, 2024 at 12:56 pm

    Murder is a psychological issue

  • J

    Jennifer EstevezJan 9, 2024 at 12:38 pm

    I learned that the most common early signs of a killer, referred to as the MacDonald Triad which is animal cruelty, fire setting, and bedwetting.

  • A

    AylineJan 9, 2024 at 12:33 pm

    Something I learned is that serial killers are killers due to how the environment and people were around them. Also, due to mental illness some suffer.

  • B

    BenjaminJan 9, 2024 at 12:33 pm

    Everyone here don’t murder people, that thing kills people

  • J

    JaylynnJan 8, 2024 at 12:34 pm

    I learned that some common disorders in serial killers are psychopathy, personality disorder, personality disorder, or psychosis.