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The predator's brain: Neuropsychodynamics of serial killers

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... In other words, all these theories go some way to contributing to the conceptualization of serial killers' behaviours, but in isolation they maintain a focus on certain aspects while necessarily ignoring other aspects. It is for this reason that there is a consensus that what makes a serial killer is a combination of many complex and interrelated neurological, social, physiological, environmental and psychological factors (Hickey, 2002;Holmes & Holmes, 1998a,b, 2002Leyton, 2000;Miller, 2000). Some theorists have suggested the notion of a predisposition to violence (Lewis et al., 1985;Reiss & Roth, 1993;Rubin, 1987), while others emphasize the interplay between environment, biological factors and personality traits as the basis for their criminal behaviour, as first proposed by Aichorn (1934) and later Eysenck (1977). ...
... Dangerous criminals such as serial killers are understood as losing control of their unmanageable destructive aggression. Most serial killers, however, do know right from wrong; they are not prey to irresistible urges but choose not to resist these impulses in their quest for murder and sexual pleasure (Miller, 2000;Ressler & Shachtman, 1997). The classical psychoanalytical perspective of aggression does not account for the significant element of premeditation and enjoyment in inflicting pain on victims. ...
... The positive events would have helped us to learn to manage and tolerate the negative experiences by creating a sense (of reality) that sometimes the world is bad (''I have been abandoned'') but sometimes the world is also good (''my mother is back again''). Most serial killers have only had a ''world as bad'' experience (Hickey, 2002;Miller, 2000;Tithecott, 1997) and, as a consequence, developed a weak, narcissistic and fragile sense of self lacking in confidence and fearful of a revengeful world. Aggression, as reactive, hides this weak and fragile self, often exhibiting as pathological narcissism (Kohut, 1972(Kohut, , 1977 common in sexually motivated serial killers (Knight, 2006). ...
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This article documents the definition and context of serial murder. The main theoretical framework adopted is object relations theories which have been particularly renowned for drawing close attention to the process and development of the early dyadic mother-infant relationship as a primary departure point for understanding both healthy and pathological psychic development. These theories have been especially comprehensive in depicting the inner world of the infant as magical and terrifying, fractured and kaleidoscopic. Within the context of narcissistic dynamics, one aspect of human behavior may be described as nonpathological and the basis for healthy ambitions and ideals, while another may be identified as pathological and destructive so that individuals behave in grandiose and murderous ways. Some of these individuals are sadistic serial killers who enjoy the sexual thrill of murdering and who are both pathological and destructive narcissists. This study examines the psychological roots of the behavior of sexually motivated male serial killers, and why they do what they do. The context of serial murder is presented, with a refined definition of sexually motivated serial murder. The development of narcissism is described as this forms the basis for understanding such behavior.
... In other words, all these theories go some way to contributing to the conceptualization of serial killers' behaviours, but in isolation they maintain a focus on certain aspects while necessarily ignoring other aspects. It is for this reason that there is a consensus that what makes a serial killer is a combination of many complex and interrelated neurological, social, physiological, environmental and psychological factors (Hickey, 2002;Holmes & Holmes, 1998a,b, 2002Leyton, 2000;Miller, 2000). Some theorists have suggested the notion of a predisposition to violence (Lewis et al., 1985;Reiss & Roth, 1993;Rubin, 1987), while others emphasize the interplay between environment, biological factors and personality traits as the basis for their criminal behaviour, as first proposed by Aichorn (1934) and later Eysenck (1977). ...
... Dangerous criminals such as serial killers are understood as losing control of their unmanageable destructive aggression. Most serial killers, however, do know right from wrong; they are not prey to irresistible urges but choose not to resist these impulses in their quest for murder and sexual pleasure (Miller, 2000;Ressler & Shachtman, 1997). The classical psychoanalytical perspective of aggression does not account for the significant element of premeditation and enjoyment in inflicting pain on victims. ...
... The positive events would have helped us to learn to manage and tolerate the negative experiences by creating a sense (of reality) that sometimes the world is bad (''I have been abandoned'') but sometimes the world is also good (''my mother is back again''). Most serial killers have only had a ''world as bad'' experience (Hickey, 2002;Miller, 2000;Tithecott, 1997) and, as a consequence, developed a weak, narcissistic and fragile sense of self lacking in confidence and fearful of a revengeful world. Aggression, as reactive, hides this weak and fragile self, often exhibiting as pathological narcissism (Kohut, 1972(Kohut, , 1977 common in sexually motivated serial killers (Knight, 2006). ...
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This theoretical paper explores the concept of evil, dislodged from its philosophical and religious underpinnings, and the concept of aggression from within a contemporary psychoanalytical perspective, and links these two concepts in such a way that the concept of evil is located psychologically and (re)defined as destructive aggression that emerges as violence against another. Within this discourse, the argument presented is that sexually motivated serial killers are evil. Evil is thus viewed as both premeditated violence and reactive to a perceived sense of threat or endangerment. Moreover, it has the essential element of psychological pleasure in inflicting pain on another. Related to this perceived threat, these types of serial killers may be viewed as protecting a weak and inadequate sense of self. In this context, serial killers’ heinous acts of destructive aggression are re-enactments of past insults, resulting in victims being the symbolic representative of past tormentors.
... He will often remain anonymous to the victim up to the time of the actual attack. This kind of stalking may be a prelude to a more serious behavioral pattern, such as serial rape or serial homicide (Miller, 2000;Schlesinger & Miller, 2003;Schlesinger, 2002). ...
... In this pursuit, stalking of potential mates incorporates the behaviorally honed skills of stealth, patience, surveillance, cognitive strategizing, and physical and physical prowess that characterize all forms of successful hunting. In other contexts, this hypertrophied stalking and hunting orientation can include serial rape and serial homicide (Miller, 2000(Miller, , 2012Schlesinger, 2002Schlesinger, , 2004Schlesinger & Miller, 2003). ...
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Stalking is generally defined as an intentional pattern of repeated intrusive and intimidating behaviors toward a specific person that causes the target to feel harassed, threatened, and fearful, or that a reasonable person would regard as being so. Motivations for stalking include a delusional belief in romantic destiny, a desire to reclaim a prior relationship, a sadistic urge to torment the victim, or a psychotic overidentification with the victim and the desire to replace him or her. Stalkers may carry a variety of diagnostic labels, including psychotic disorders, delusional disorders, or cluster-B personality disorders, and are generally refractive to conventional psychological treatments. Risk factors for violence in a stalking scenario include a prior intimate relationship, the stalker's feeling of being rejected or humiliated, and generic risk factors for violence such as low educational level and substance abuse. Cyberstalking can be as distressing, if not more so, to victims as physical stalking due to the concealment and anonymity afforded by electronic communication. Victims may adopt varying strategies for dealing with stalkers, such as avoiding, confronting, seeking third party assistance, and accessing the legal system. Threat management specialists have offered certain recommendations that can make it easier for a victim to deter and discourage a stalker.
... Dopamine and norepinephrine generally enhance aggression (Raine, 1993) and numerous studies have found signs of aberrant dopaminergic function in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and schizophrenia (Söderström et al., 2001). Testosterone is clearly implicated in aggression, but its effects, particularly in primates, interact with social factors (Miller, 2000). Monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) is an enzyme involved in the metabolism of neuroepinphrine, serotonin and dopamine and its levels are genetically determined. ...
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Multiple and serial murders are rare events that have a very profound societal impact. We have conducted a systematic review, following PRISMA guidelines, of both the peer reviewed literature and of journalistic and legal sources regarding mass and serial killings. Our findings tentatively indicate that these extreme forms of violence may be a result of a highly complex interaction of biological, psychological and sociological factors and that, potentially, a significant proportion of mass or serial killers may have had neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder or head injury. Research into multiple and serial murder is in its infancy: there is a lack of rigorous studies and most of the literature is anecdotal and speculative. Specific future study of the potential role of neurodevelopmental disorders in multiple and serial murder is warranted and, due to the rarity of these events, innovative research techniques may be required.
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