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Narcissism, Fame Seeking, and Mass Shootings



For many years, the conventional wisdom was that most acts of aggression and violence stem from insecurities and low self-esteem. The possibility that some mass shooters have low self-esteem, low self-worth, or painful personal insecurities should not lead us to overlook another more likely possibility: that a significant number of mass shooters may have large egos and narcissistic tendencies. This article will (a) describe the psychological concepts of narcissism and narcissistic traits; (b) review previous research on links between narcissism, aggression, and violence; (c) review evidence that some mass shooters exhibit narcissistic traits; and (d) discuss the implications of narcissistic mass shooters for society and the media coverage of their shooting rampages.
American Behavioral Scientist
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DOI: 10.1177/0002764217739660
Narcissism, Fame Seeking,
and Mass Shootings
Brad J. Bushman1
For many years, the conventional wisdom was that most acts of aggression and
violence stem from insecurities and low self-esteem. However, mass shootings are
extremely complex events influenced by multiple psychological factors, often acting
together, and of course not all mass shooters are the same. The possibility that some
mass shooters have low self-esteem, low self-worth, or painful personal insecurities
should not lead us to overlook another important possibility: that a significant
number of mass shooters may have large egos and narcissistic tendencies. This article
will (a) describe the psychological concepts of narcissism and narcissistic traits; (b)
review previous research on links between narcissism, aggression, and violence; (c)
review evidence that some mass shooters exhibit narcissistic traits; and (d) discuss
the implications of narcissistic mass shooters for society and the media coverage of
their shooting rampages.
narcissism, ego threat, aggression, fame seeking, mass shootings
For many years, the conventional wisdom was that most acts of aggression and vio-
lence stem from insecurities and low self-esteem (Baumeister, Bushman, & Campbell,
2000). Despite this apparent consensus, however, neither a compelling theoretical
rationale nor a persuasive body of empirical evidence exists to support the overarching
assumption that aggressive and violent people usually suffer from low self-esteem.
Nevertheless, this view has been extended to school shooters. Following a series of
school shootings in the United States, several organizations (including the U.S.
1The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA
Corresponding Author:
Brad J. Bushman, School of Communication, The Ohio State University, 3127 Derby Hall,
154 North Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210-1339, USA.
XXX10.1177/0002764217739660American Behavioral ScientistBushman
2 American Behavioral Scientist 00(0)
Department of Education) prepared lists of alleged warning signs for identifying pos-
sible school shooters, and many of the lists included low self-esteem (e.g., Lord, 1999;
O’Toole, 1999).
However, mass shootings are extremely complex events influenced by multiple
psychological factors, often acting together, and of course not all mass shooters are the
same (Bushman et al., 2016). The possibility that some mass shooters have low self-
esteem, low self-worth, or painful personal insecurities should not lead us to overlook
another important possibility: that a significant number of mass shooters may have
large egos and narcissistic tendencies.
If that is the case, it would be consistent with many historical examples of aggres-
sive and violent leaders who also seemed to think very highly of themselves. For
example, Genghis Khan appeared to have a huge ego, wanted to rule the world, and
used military force to acquire the largest contiguous empire in history. He told his
people, “With Heaven’s aid I have conquered for you a huge empire. But my life was
too short to achieve the conquest of the world.” Another example is Joseph Stalin, the
leader of the former Soviet Union’s Communist Party who initiated the “Great Purge”
(also called the “Great Terror”), which led to countless deaths. Stalin also appeared to
have a big ego; he once compared himself favorably to the Pope, bragging, “The Pope?
How many divisions has he got?” Napoléon Bonaparte, the French military and politi-
cal leader who conquered much of Europe, famously said, “France has more need of
me than I have need of France.” Similarly, Adolf Hitler seemed to love the crowds of
admirers who saluted him and chanted, “Heil Hitler!” And there are many other exam-
ples of violent historical figures who may have had big egos and narcissistic tenden-
cies, such as Attila the Hun, Benito Mussolini, and Saddam Hussein.
Of course, narcissism is neither a required nor sufficient condition for becoming a
mass shooter. Not all mass shooters are narcissists, and not all narcissists are mass
shooters. Furthermore, even among narcissistic mass shooters, there are many other
important factors that help explain these individuals’ psychology and behavior.
However, understanding the narcissistic elements of their personalities may be an
important step forward. This article will (a) describe the psychological concepts of
narcissism and narcissistic traits; (b) review previous research on links between nar-
cissism, aggression, and violence; (c) review evidence that some mass shooters exhibit
narcissistic traits; and (d) discuss the implications of narcissistic mass shooters for
society and the media coverage of their shooting rampages.
Narcissism and Narcissistic Traits
The term narcissism comes from the Greek myth about a handsome young man named
Narcissus who fell in love with his own image reflected in the still water. Narcissus
said, “I burn with love for me!” In its extreme form, narcissism is a personality disor-
der defined as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant
need for admiration, and a lack of empathy (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
In its less extreme form, narcissism is found at subclinical or “normal” levels in the
general population. In other words, narcissism can be a personality trait as well as a
personality disorder.
Bushman 3
The personality trait of narcissism is typically measured using the Narcissistic
Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Terry, 1988), which contains 40 pairs of forced-
choice items such as the pair: “The thought of ruling the world frightens the hell out of
me” (nonnarcissistic response) versus “If I ruled the world it would be a better place”
(narcissistic response). Shorter self-report measures have also been developed, such as
a 16-item version of the NPI (Ames, Rose, & Anderson, 2006), a 4-item version
(Jonason & Webster, 2010), and even a Single Item Narcissism Scale (Konrath, Meier,
& Bushman, 2014). There is also a narcissism scale for children 7 years and older
(Thomaes, Stegge, Bushman, Olthof, & Denissen, 2008). Before about age 7, children
tend to have unrealistically positive self-views, and they have difficulty making social
The ability to make social comparisons is a critical component of narcissism—
narcissists think they are superior to others. However, narcissism is also strongly
correlated with unstable high self-esteem (Rhodewalt, Madrian, & Cheney, 1998),
which has been linked to hostile tendencies (Kernis, Grannemann, & Barclay, 1989).
Narcissists typically have very thin skins—they are hypersensitive to criticism and ego
Links Between Narcissism, Aggression, and Violence
Although there is never complete consensus in any field, the overwhelming majority
of studies reject that traditional view that low self-esteem is a consistent predictor of
aggression and violence, and instead support the view that narcissism is linked to
aggression and violence. In their comprehensive literature review, Baumeister,
Smart, and Boden (1996) cited a broad array of empirical observations that aggres-
sive and violent people often hold highly favorable self-views. They proposed
instead that aggression and violence most commonly result from threatened ego-
tism, which occurs when favorable self-views are attacked or questioned by others.
They concluded that a subset of individuals with favorable self-views (especially
inflated and unstable beliefs in personal superiority) are most likely to commit
aggressive and violent acts. This subset of individuals appears to have narcissistic
Previous research has supported the hypothesis that narcissists would have more
positive attitudes toward violence and think it is more acceptable (Blinkhorn, Lyons,
& Almond, 2016). Additionally, in one seminal experiment (Bushman & Baumeister,
1998), participants were given the opportunity to aggress against a person who insulted
or praised them or against an innocent third person. The highest aggression levels were
shown by narcissists who aggressed directly against the person who insulted them.
People with low self-esteem were not more aggressive than others.
There is also a link between narcissism and violent criminal behavior. In another
study (Bushman & Baumeister, 2002), researchers gave violent male offenders (N = 65)
who were serving jail time for murder, assault, rape, or robbery standardized measures
of self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965) and narcissism (Raskin & Terry, 1988). The research-
ers compared these subjects’ self-esteem and narcissism scores with the results from
more than 9,200 subjects who were not incarcerated (and presumably far less violent).
4 American Behavioral Scientist 00(0)
The results showed that the violent offenders did not have lower self-esteem than the
control group, but they had much higher narcissism scores (M = 21.82) than the
noncriminal subjects (M = 17.09, p < .0001, d = 0.63). A link between narcissism and
violence has also been observed in psychiatric patients (Schulte, Hall, & Crosby, 1994;
Svindseth, Nøttestad, Wallin, Roaldset, & Dahl, 2008). Separately, another review of
25 independent samples of adults (Lambe, Hamilton-Giachritsis, Garner, & Walker,
2016) found that narcissism was a significant predictor of violence in clinical and
forensic samples, with a 1.2- to 11.5-fold increase in violence. Narcissism was also
predictive of aggression in nonclinical samples (mainly college students), especially
following ego threat.
Similar effects have been reported for children and adolescents. For example,
multiple studies have found a positive relation between narcissism and dating violence
(e.g., Liao, Zhao, Liu, & Yang, 2015; Ryan, Weikel, & Sprechini, 2008). Another
study found that narcissistic personality disorder symptoms in adolescence predicted
violent criminal behavior in adulthood (Johnson et al., 2000). In laboratory experiments,
narcissistic children are also more aggressive than others, especially following an ego
threat (e.g., Thomaes et al., 2008). Narcissistic children are even more aggressive
against their own parents compared with other children (Calvete, Orue, Gamez-
Guadix, & Bushman, 2015).
Because of its associations with aggression and violence, narcissism has become part
of what is known as the “Dark Triad of Personality” (Paulhus & Williams, 2002), along
with psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Psychopaths are callous and unemotional indi-
viduals who mainly focus on obtaining their own goals, regardless of whether they hurt
others in the process. The term “Machiavellianism” comes from the Italian philosopher
and writer Niccolò Machiavelli, who advocated using any means necessary to gain raw
political power, including aggression and violence. Taken together, these three dark per-
sonality traits embody the lack of empathy, sense of entitlement, and motivation to gain
power that appear to facilitate involvement in aggressive and violent acts.
Skeptics might wonder whether the aforementioned evidence that links narcissism,
aggression, and violence is directly applicable to mass shooters or not. After all, in
terms of their behavior and psychology, mass shooters who attack victims in public
places (e.g., a school, workplace, church, movie theater, shopping mall, supermarket,
etc.) seem like outliers—they are very different from most other aggressive and vio-
lent individuals (Fox & Levin, 1998; Lankford, 2016; Madfis, 2014).
However, it actually seems like mass shooters may be significantly more likely to
have narcissistic traits than many other violent criminals. For example, in general, most
homicides are not premeditated—they are typically crimes of passion, in which an
argument turns nasty and someone loses control of their temper—or crimes of escala-
tion, in which someone involved in a robbery or burglary loses control of the situation
and ends up killing someone in the heat of the moment (Lankford, 2016). In many of
these cases, poor self-control, alcoholic intoxication, drug use, or desires for money or
stolen goods seem to play an important causal role—factors that do not seem directly
connected to narcissism. By contrast, mass killers typically commit premeditated acts
of mass murder after they have “externalized blame” and failed to take responsibility
Bushman 5
for what has gone wrong in their lives (Fox & Levin, 1998). Importantly, their crimes
are often preceded by major ego threats that would be particularly infuriating for narcis-
sists. One of the catalysts for mass murder is often the offender’s “humiliating loss of
face,” such as being fired or laid off from work, suspended or expelled from school,
rejected by a significant other or spouse, or struggling with some other crisis (Levin &
Madfis, 2009, p. 1295). As reviewed earlier, narcissists tend to be hypersensitive to
criticism and likely to respond to ego threats with aggression and violence. This seems
like a fitting description of exactly what many mass shooters do.
Evidence That Mass Shooters Exhibit Narcissistic Traits
Although narcissism is often overlooked as a potential risk factor for mass shooters, it
has been cited by some government experts and scholars as a common factor among
school shooters. For example, narcissism is included as a risk factor on several lists of
risk factors for school shooters, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation list
(O’Toole, 1999). Another list includes “displaying narcissistic personality traits” as
one of the seven most important risk factors for school shooting shootings, along with
more standard risk factors, such as experiencing peer rejection (e.g., bullying), experi-
encing a significant loss (e.g., college non-admittance), and having a negative school
climate (Bondü & Scheithauer, 2011).
Analyses of school shootings often find that the offenders exhibit narcissistic traits
as well. For example, a 1999 study of 18 U.S. school shooters found a narcissistic
attitude of superiority as a potential risk factor (McGee & DeBernardo, 1999). Another
study conducted a decade later found narcissistic tendencies in 14% to 20% of U.S.
school shooters (Langman, 2009). Similarly, Helen Smith, a forensic psychologist
who has interviewed over 4,000 violent youths (many of them murderers) has testified
in court and before state judiciary committees that narcissism is a “distinct personality
trait that stands out in school shooters” (Tatum, 1999). Beyond the United States, a
2009 analysis of German school shooters found “evidence of narcissism” in 86% of
shooters (6 of 7) selected for close examination (Hoffmann, Roshdi, & Robertz, 2009).
Because mass shootings are so rare, most of the evidence on these offenders is
based on intensive case history studies (e.g., Langman, 2017; Newman, Fox, Harding,
Mehta, & Roth, 2004) as well as analyses of databases such as the “School-Associated
Violent Deaths” maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014).
Below are several examples of individuals who had narcissistic personality disorder or
exhibited narcissistic traits, according to the mental health professionals who had inti-
mate knowledge of their cases. Although not all of these offenders killed four or more
victims—which is one of several different definitions used for “mass shooting”
(Ingraham, 2016)—they may have all attempted to do so. Consider these examples,
listed chronologically.
1. On December 14, 1992, a gunman killed two and wounded four others at
Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, before sur-
rendering to the police. A court-appointed psychiatrist said the gunman
6 American Behavioral Scientist 00(0)
suffered from narcissistic personality disorder, which gave him an “overin-
flated image of his own importance” (Yen, 2000, p. 24).
2. On October 1, 1997, a gunman killed two students and injured seven others at
his high school in Pearl, Mississippi. In a court-ordered evaluation, three psy-
chologists independently agreed that the shooter had narcissistic traits (Cloud/
Springfield, 2001).
3. On May 9, 2003, a gunman entered Case Western University, in Cleveland,
Ohio, where he killed one and wounded two others before being apprehended
by a SWAT team. A forensic psychologist who spent over 11 hours with the
gunman testified that he had narcissistic personality disorder (State v. Halder,
4. On July 22, 2011, a gunman dressed as a police officer killed 69 people at a
youth camp on the Norwegian island Utøya. The gunman was diagnosed with
narcissistic personality disorder, along with several other mental disorders
(Faccini & Allely, 2016). Narcissistic tendencies can also be seen in his mani-
festo, where he rewrites his life history by fabricating his supposed accom-
plishments (e.g., being part of one of the toughest gangs, being a prominent
graffiti artist with works all over the city, being a high-ranking Freemason),
and describes himself as a revolutionary leader, an international political
leader, and a patriot with a large number of followers.
5. On December 13, 2013, a gunman entered Arapahoe High School that he
attended in Centennial, Colorado, armed with a shotgun, a machete, three
Molotov cocktails, and 125 rounds of ammunition. He shot one student and
tried to burn the school down before committing suicide. His school psycholo-
gist believed he was a narcissist (Steffen, 2014).
Other mass shooters have also made explicitly narcissistic statements. For example,
on April 20, 1999, two Columbine High School students launched a massacre in their
high school in Littleton, Colorado, murdering 13 and wounding 23 before turning the
guns on themselves. One of the students was the son of Wayne and Kathy Harris, and
the other was the son of Tom and Sue Klebold. Both Harris and Klebold appeared to
have narcissistic personality traits. Indeed, as presented in Table 1, several of their
comments resemble items on the NPI (Twenge & Campbell, 2003). They also made
other narcissistic statements. Harris called his journal “The Book of God.” He wrote
“Ich bin Gott” (German for “I am God”) in several year books and in his school plan-
ner (Langman, 2014b, pp. 3-4). Harris said, “I would love to be the ultimate judge and
say if a person lives or dies—be godlike” (Langman, 2014b, p. 4). Similarly, Klebold
said, “I know we’re gonna have followers because we’re so fucking God-like” (Gibbs
& Roche, 1999).
Another example of narcissistic statements comes from the incident on April 16,
2007, when a senior at Virginia Tech University launched a massacre, murdering 32
and wounding 17 before killing himself. In a video before the shooting, the killer said
in a Manifesto that included photos of him brandishing guns:
Bushman 7
Thanks to you I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the Weak and Defenseless
people. . . . Like Moses, I spread the sea and lead my people—the Weak, the Defenseless,
and the Innocent Children of all age . . . I set the example of the century for my Children
to follow. (Langman, 2014a, p. 7).
He viewed himself as the leader of a revolution, and said: “It will be the start of a revo-
lution” (Langman, 2014a, p. 11).
One final example comes from May 23, 2014, when a gunman killed 6 people and
injured 14 others before killing himself near the campus of University of California,
Santa Barbara. In a video, the gunman refers to himself as the “perfect guy,” a “supreme
gentleman,” the “superior one,” and the “true alpha male” and said, “I’ll be a god
compared to you” (Garvey, 2014). He also said, “You are animals and I will slaughter
you like animals. And I will be a god. Exacting my retribution on all those who deserve
it.” These statements seem consistent with someone who has narcissistic traits.
Narcissistic Mass Shooters: Implications for Society and
the Media
If narcissistic traits indeed drive the psychology and behavior of mass shooters, as the
previously reviewed evidence suggests, that has important and far reaching implica-
tions. Research has shown that narcissism levels are increasing over time in American
college students (Twenge, Konrath, Foster, Campbell, & Bushman, 2008). Several
scholars have lamented this fact. For example, they have warned that “Celebrity
Narcissism is Seducing America” (Pinsky & Young, 2008), they have identified what
they refer to as “The Narcissism Epidemic” (Twenge & Campbell, 2009), and they
have bemoaned our “Culture of Narcissism” (Joiner, 2017). The rise of narcissism
over time could provide a partial explanation for why mass shootings seem to be
becoming more common over time (King, Bialik, & Flowers, 2015). It would also
Table 1. Examples of Narcissistic Personality Inventory Items That Match the Columbine
Shooters’ Statements.
Narcissistic Personality Inventory item Columbine shooters’ statement
“I insist upon getting the respect that
is due me.”
“Isn’t it fun to get the respect that we’re going to
“I wish someone would someday
write my biography.”
“Directors will be fighting over this story;
Tarantino . . . Spielberg.”
“I can make anyone believe anything I
want them to.”
“I could convince them that I’m going to climb
Mount Everest, or I have a twin brother growing
out of my back. I can make you believe anything.”
“If I ruled the world it would be a
better place.”
“You and me are the ones who should be running
the world.”
Note. Adapted from Langman (2014b) and Twenge and Campbell (2003).
8 American Behavioral Scientist 00(0)
suggest that if narcissism continues to flourish as a subclinical but influential personal-
ity trait of many members of the population, we may see even more narcissistic mass
shooters in the years to come.
Given the potential consequences, this would seem like the worst possible time for
the media to incentivize narcissistic behavior. For comparison, if pyromaniac tenden-
cies were becoming more common among young people, how dangerous would it be
if society started incentivizing and rewarding fire building, arson, and bomb making?
The risk is that there appears to be a direct link between the attention-seeking desires
of many narcissists and the attention-granting rewards offered by media coverage of
their behavior. Narcissists deeply crave attention and admiration from others, and
some of the items on the NPI (Raskin & Terry, 1988) specifically assess this tendency,
which is often called exhibitionism, with items such as “I like to start new fads and
fashion” and “I really like to be the center of attention.” Although narcissists may have
the desire to seek many types of attention, the temptation of widespread fame is likely
to attract them the most.
Unfortunately, the media provide a stage for narcissistic individuals to become
“stars” through extreme acts of violence, such as mass shootings. In an interview
following the Newtown school shooting, Harvard Professor Steven Pinker said,
“[If] you want to do something that guarantees that your name will be on the lips
of everyone in the country, what are your options? There’s only one, and that is
kill a lot of innocent people” (NOVA, 2012). As another scholar noted, “mass
shootings also generate incredible media attention. Perhaps some perpetrators are
not as preoccupied with killing as with fame, with murder serving as the vehicle
of their own elevation to what seems to them like celebrity status” (Langman,
2016, p. 1).
These observations are consistent with statements from some of the mass shooters
with narcissistic tendencies discussed previously. For example, one of the
Columbine killers said “I want to leave a lasting impression on the world”
(Associated Press, 2006) and thought directors such as Tarantino and Spielberg
would be fighting over the rights to make a movie about their massacre. The
Virginia Tech gunman said “The vendetta you have witnessed today will reverberate
throughout every home and every soul in America” (Langman, 2014a, p. 15). The
Norwegian gunman practiced extensively for the possible interviews he might do
following the attacks (Pantucci, 2011). He even hired an organization to cleanse the
online profiles of him after the mass shooting, so that his grandiose image would be
To draw public attention, several mass shooters have also written manifestos and
publicized them prior to the shooting. In today’s digital age, one does not have to wait
for the FBI or New York Times to release the manifesto. One can easily find the manifesto
on the Internet, such as on YouTube or Facebook. As one reporter wrote, “This is becom-
ing a disturbing recurring motif—online manifestos followed by mass shootings”
(Weeks, 2011).
Something needs to change. As one scholar has suggested,
Bushman 9
Police and the news media should do everything possible to avoid glamorizing mass
shooters. Many active shooters seem to be motivated by a desire for fame or recognition,
so you will never hear me mention one of these people by name. It’s enough to refer to
them as “the attacker” or “the shooter.” (Blair, 2014, p. 7).
The FBI seems to have a similar philosophy. On June 12, 2016, a gunman entered the
Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where he killed 49 victims and wounded 58 oth-
ers. Following the shooting, the FBI deliberately avoided showing photos of the gun-
man and using his name (Eversley, 2016).
Although most people with narcissistic tendencies will never commit mass shootings,
some people with narcissistic tendencies seem addicted to attention and fame. To help
address this problem, the amount of media attention given to them should be minimized.
The public does not need to know their names or see photos of their faces, and continu-
ing to reward them for committing mass murder may only exacerbate the problem.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
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Author Biography
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... Usually, the attention they receive fades rapidly and is not sufficient to fully satisfy their needs. In some cases, the search for alternatives can lead to extreme measures being taken, sometimes as far as resorting to violence (Bushman 2017;Larkin 2018). The Columbine shooting in 1999 can be considered a cultural turning point in this regard, as it led to the advancement of violent attacks from local news events to worldwide headlines (Muschert 2002). ...
... Explanatory Approaches for the Genesis of the Attack Narcissistic personality traits are more prevalent in violent offenders and murderers than in the general population (Lambe et al. 2016). Mass killers, on average, are likely to exhibit more pronounced narcissistic traits than other violent offenders (Bushman 2017). In fact, very distinct narcissistic tendencies can be found in school shooters and other mass murderers (Bushman 2017;Hoffmann et al. 2009;Langman 2009). ...
... Mass killers, on average, are likely to exhibit more pronounced narcissistic traits than other violent offenders (Bushman 2017). In fact, very distinct narcissistic tendencies can be found in school shooters and other mass murderers (Bushman 2017;Hoffmann et al. 2009;Langman 2009). Specifically, fame-seeking shooters often display narcissistic traits (Bushman 2017;Kellner 2015;Twenge and Campbell 2003). ...
In the early hours of June 8, 2017, a Weis Market employee in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, shot three co-workers and herself. Shortly before the shooting, the perpetrator uploaded vast amounts of digital material, so-called legacy tokens, to the Internet. She daily frequented various forums and social media platforms and produced large amounts of written, audio, and video content, some of which macabre and explicit. This content revealed her desire for fame and attention and a fascination for other rampage killers, both characteristics of fame-seeking rampage shooters. In this study, we analyze the perpetrator's legacy tokens and shed light on her biography, family relationships, personal crises and grievances, and recurring themes in her communication. The perpetrator was particularly preoccupied with a fictional group she founded called “Ember's Ghost Squad”; death and dying; depression and suicidal tendencies; gender identity and sexuality; violent fantasies; previous rampage killers (esp. the Columbine shooters); and grandiose fantasies, narcissistic tendencies, and a desire for fame. We present hypotheses regarding drives and motives that led to the shooting and conclude that the core of severe targeted violence lies in an enduring maladaptive coping with individual grievances, regardless of the narratives they are embedded in. Particularly, fame seeking as a means to identity building and stabilization of self-worth offers a valuable explanatory approach, which can also be helpful from a risk assessment perspective. Highlighting some challenges that arose in data mining and analysis, we discuss practical implications and recommendations for the early detection of intent to commit a violent act.
... 10 Silver et al 10 theorized that the motivation for perpetrator leakage may be attention seeking, intimidation, or excitement. Consistent with this theory, there is some evidence that perpetrators of mass shootings are narcissistic 11 and committing a public mass shooting fulfills their quest for celebrity status. 12 Media coverage of mass shootings is intense, 13 and some mass shootings are a form of public performance, meant to draw attention to one's grievance and anger with the world. ...
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Importance Understanding the motivation of a mass shooter’s intent to do harm can help practitioners and policy makers develop more effective intervention strategies. Objective To examine the prevalence of communication of intent to do harm, known as leakage, in a sample of 170 mass public shooters from 1966 to 2019; the characteristics of perpetrators who do and do not leak their plans; and whether leakage is a form of fame-seeking behavior or a cry for help among individuals who are in crisis or suicidal. Design, Setting, and Participants This cross-sectional study included perpetrators who killed 4 or more people in a public space from 1996 to 2019 and were included in a comprehensive database of US mass shootings. That database was built from August 2017 to December 2019, and analysis took place from January to May 2021. Main Outcomes and Measures Leakage was identified and coded using publicly available records. Any communication to a third party of an intent to do harm prior to the shooting was coded as leakage. Logistic regression models were used to examine the risk factors associated with leakage. Models estimating leakage were examined to assess the 2 hypothesized pathways to leakage (the cry-for-help model and the fame-seeking model). Results The 170 participants in this sample included 166 (97.7%) male perpetrators and 3 (2.3%) female perpetrators, with a mean (SD) age of 34 (12) years. Overall, 161 participants had known race and ethnicity: 11 (6.8%) Asian individuals, 35 (21.7%) Black individuals, 14 (8.7%) Latinx individuals, 7 (4.4%) Middle Eastern individuals, 3 (1.9%) Native American individuals, 89 (55.3%) White individuals, and 2 (1.2%) individuals with other race and ethnicity. Overall, 79 mass shooters (46.5%) leaked their plans. Of perpetrators who leaked their plans, 35 (44.3%) leaked specific plans about a mass shooting, and 44 (55.1%) leaked nonspecific plans about generalized violence. The study findings indicate that leakage was associated with receiving counseling (odds ratio, 7.0; 95% CI, 2.0-24.8) and suicidality (odds ratio, 3.7; 95% CI, 1.0-13.6), suggesting that leakage may best be characterized as a cry for help from perpetrators prior to their act. Conclusions and Relevance In this study, nearly half of the perpetrators of mass shootings leaked their plans. Leakage was associated with receiving counseling and suicidality. Leakage is a critical moment for mental health intervention to prevent gun violence. Opportunities to report threats of violence need to be increased. Traditional threat assessment models focused on specific threats of violence may miss critical opportunities for intervention.
... Thus, narcissism is also a risk factor for violent behavior. This finding is consistent with other research suggesting that narcissism might be a risk factor for extremely violent acts such as mass shootings (Bushman, 2018). ...
This meta-analytic review examines the link between narcissism and aggression, and whether the link is stronger under provocation conditions. A total of 437 independent studies were located, which included 123,043 participants. Narcissism was related to both aggression (r = .26, [.24, .28]) and violence (r = .23, [.18, .27]). As expected, the narcissism-aggression link was stronger under provocation conditions (r = .29, [.23, .36]) than under no provocation conditions (r = .12, [.05, .18]), but was even significant in the absence of provocation. Both "normal" and "pathological" narcissism were related to aggression. All three dimensions of narcissism (i.e., entitlement, grandiose narcissism, vulnerable narcissism) were related to aggression. Narcissism was related to all forms of aggression (i.e., indirect, direct, displaced, physical, verbal, bullying), and to both functions of aggression (i.e., reactive, proactive). The relation between narcissism and aggression was significant for males and females, for people of all ages, for students and nonstudents, and for people from individualistic and collectivistic countries. Significant results were obtained in experimental, cross-sectional, and longitudinal studies, in published and unpublished studies, and in studies that assessed aggression using different types of measures (i.e., self-report, other-report, observation). Overall results were robust to publication bias and the presence of outliers. Theoretically, these results indicate that provocation is a key moderator of the link between narcissism and aggression. Individuals high in narcissism have "thin skins" and are prone to aggression when they are provoked. Practically, these results suggest that narcissism is an important risk factor for aggression and violence. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
... Evidence suggests that mass public shootings are getting more frequent and more deadly Duwe, 2020;Lankford & Silver, 2020). Lankford and Silver (2020) argue that the rise of celebrity culture in the age of mass media and social media has led to more mass public shooters who are motivated to kill large numbers of victims for fame or attention (see, Bushman, 2018;Langman, 2018;Lankford, 2016), as well as to more shooters who have been directly influenced by past mass shooters (for research on mass shooting "contagion" and "copycat" killings, see Meindl & Ivy, 2018;Towers et al., 2015). The role of serious mental illness in motivating mass shootings, however, remains an open question (Skeem & Mulvey, 2020). ...
Mass shootings are often blamed on serious mental illness. This study assesses the role of psychosis in contributing to mass shootings along a continuum. The role of psychosis is compared with other motiva- tions for mass shootings including employment issues, interpersonal conflict, relationship issues, hate, and fame-seeking. Perpetrators motivated by psychosis are also compared with other perpetrators on several well-established risk factors for violence. It is hypothesized that a mental health history is com- mon among mass shooters, but symptoms of psychosis only directly motivate mass shootings for a mi- nority of cases. A dataset of 172 mass shooters was created, coded on 166 life history variables using publicly available data. The entire dataset and codebook are publicly available. The findings show that symptoms of psychosis played no role in 69% of cases, but psychosis may have played a minor role in 11% of cases, a moderate role in 9% of cases, and a major role in 11% of cases. Perpetrators motivated by psychosis were similar to mass shooters with other motivations in terms of demographics and com- mon risk factors for violence. The role of serious mental illness in mass shootings is complex. The data indicate that access to mental health care may help prevent mass shootings in a minority of cases, but this is far from the only solution to mass shootings.
This chapter deals with serious chronic illnesses among students and what effects and consequences these have for the school. In this context, the school not only bears a great responsibility for paying attention to these problems, but also offers an optimally suitable framework for psychological interventions in dealing with grief.
Pathological narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are factors in numerous deviant behaviors, including white collar crime, domestic violence, physical aggression, and sexual violence. This chapter includes a discussion of clinical presentations of NPD and pathological narcissism, followed by ways in which clinical characteristics relate to the deviant behaviors found in empirical research. We then discuss forensic assessment of pathological narcissism traits, including considerations for the forensic interview and selection of appropriate assessment instruments. Two clinical cases in forensic settings are presented and assessed with scores from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2-Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF) and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5 Personality Disorders (SCID-5-PD). We conclude with explanations for the assessment findings, which are drawn from the clinical conceptualizations described in the chapter.
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Kendini aşırı önemseme, abartılmış benmerkezcilik ve kişilerarası ilişkilerde problemler ile karakterize olan patolojik narsisizm gösteren bireyler, duygusal ilişkilerinde arzularını ve megaloman duygularını tatmin etme amaçlı diğer kişilere karşı hem empati eksikliği göstermekte hem de onları duygusal açıdan istismar etmeye eğilimli olabilmektedir. Gaslighting, narsisistik bireyin partneri üzerinde güç ve kontrol kurmaya çalıştığı duygusal ilişki içerisinde gelişebilen hem onun şahsi yargı, düşünce ve deneyimlerine olan inancını hem de kendisine olan güven duygusunu zedeleyebilen benliğe yönelik bir duygusal istismar biçimi olarak tanımlanmaktadır. Duygusal istismar ise, kişilik gelişimini negatif yönde etkileyen ve psikiyatrik bozuklukların etiyolojisinde temel bir öneme sahip başlıca faktörlerden biridir. Olumsuz bir yaşam deneyimi olarak değerlendirilebilen patolojik uzun dönemli duygusal ilişki esnasında veya sonrasında mağdur; travmatik bağlanma ve reviktimizasyon ile karakterize olan dissosiyatif bozukluk ve/veya travma sonrası stres bozukluğu tanısı alabilmektedir. Psikoterapi adına duygusal istismarın narsisistik bireylerin kurduğu romantik ilişkilerde ortaya çıkış ritüellerine ve partnerleri üzerindeki negatif yönelimli psikolojik etkilerine açıklık kazandırmak temel bir gerekliliktir. Duygusal istismara dair yapılan çalışmalar, hem toplumda patolojik düzeydeki narsisistik bireylerin fark edilebilmesine hem de narsisistik istismarı önleme çalışmalarının ivme kazanmasına önemli katkılar sağlamaya devam etmektedir. Bu çalışmada patolojik duygusal ilişki içerisinde yer alan narsisistik bireylerin partnerleri üzerinde kullandığı duygusal istismar ve gaslightingin ortaya çıkış biçimleri ve mağdurun ruhsal yapısı üzerindeki negatif etkileri kapsamlı bir şekilde değerlendirilecektir. Anahtar Kelimeler: Narsisizm; duygusal istismar; gaslighting; yakın partner ilişkileri; ihanet travması; travmatik bağlanma Abstract It is known that individuals who show pathological narcissism, which is associated with excessive self-care, exaggerated egocentrism, and problems in interpersonal relationships, have a lack of empathy to others, and are prone to emotional abuse, which paves the way for using others to satisfy their megalomaniac desires and feelings of self-satisfaction in their emotional relationships. Gaslighting is defined as a form of emotional abuse towards the self, which can develop in an emotional relationship where the narcissistic individual tries to establish power and control over his partner and can damage both his partner's belief in his own judgment, thoughts, and experiences and his sense of self-confidence. Emotional abuse, on the other hand, is one of the main factors that negatively affect personality development and have etiological importance in the foundation of psychiatric disorders. The victim during or after the pathological long-term emotional relationship, which can be considered as a negative life experience; can be diagnosed with dissociative disorders and/or post-traumatic stress disorder that are characterized by traumatic attachment and revictimization. It is very valuable for the process of psychotherapy to clarify the rituals of emotional abuse that occurs in close emotional relationships involving narcissistic individuals, and the negative psychological effects on the partners who are emotionally involved with narcissistic individuals. Studies on emotional abuse continue to make significant contributions to both the recognition of pathological narcissistic individuals in society and the acceleration of efforts to prevent narcissistic abuse. The aim of this study is to comprehensively evaluate the emergence of emotional abuse and gaslighting used by narcissistic individuals in pathological emotional relationships on their partners and their negative effects on the psychological structure of the victim. Keywords: Narcissism; emotional abuse; gaslighting; intimate partner relationships; betrayal trauma; traumatic attachment
Over the past few years, a number of major terrorist attacks have been accompanied by the uploading of detailed, online manifestos, which chart and publicise ideologies, motivations and tactical choices in the backdrop of a dehumanized foe. Such manifestos can also act as inspiration for potential copycats and group-think style supporters within an insulated network. However the types of conclusions that can be drawn from manifesto analysis is a complex issue. The broad aim of this chapter is to explore such identity construction and the usefulness of analysing terrorist manifestos through a narrative framework, with a view to demonstrating that manifestos can be understood as a script to a violent performance (the terrorist act) in the theatre of terrorism (the digital world). These insights can serve the development of policy directed towards aspects of the personal attitudes and the social drivers that are necessary for the amplification of violence rather than in the often impenetrable prediction of who is and who is not likely to become a terrorist actor.
This chapter identifies a gap in knowledge of mass shootings that arose across central and eastern European contexts through reviewing literature on this form of violence. There is a major gap in research which is not only attributable to our knowledge of the total amount of cases that have arisen in CEE contexts, but also on their frequency, severity, and offender characteristics. The chapter then presents a comprehensive overview of scholarship on mass shootings. It explains trends pertaining to the histories, experiences, and motivations of perpetrators of mass shootings as well as geo-spatial characteristics of where incidents occurred in, the legislative barriers (or lack thereof) on gun acquisition, and trends pertaining to socio-economic conditions that offenders experienced. The chapter then overviews estimates of gun ownership rates across the countries under attention drawn from the Small Arms Survey, along with an explanation of regulatory guidelines on firearm acquisition in the CEE regions. It demonstrates that gun regulations are much stricter, on average, in CEE states than in the United States.
In a 2003 study, we examined five antecedents of school shootings – a history of rejection, acute rejection experience, history of psychological problems, fascination with death or violence, and fascination with guns. In three studies, the current project examined the role of these factors in 57 K-12 shootings, 24 college/university shootings, and 77 mass shootings that occurred since the original study. Over half of all shooters had a history of psychological problems. More K-12 shooters than college or mass shooters displayed a history of rejection. However, more mass than school shooters had experienced an acute rejection, such as a workplace firing. The characteristics identified in the original study appeared as common antecedent conditions of not only K-12 shootings but college/university and mass shootings as well. These results identify problems that can be addressed to minimize the occurrence of school and mass shootings.
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This document provides evidence to support the idea that school shooters have been influenced by previous perpetrators.
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It has long been hypothesized that feelings of inferiority or low self-esteem lead individuals to aggress against those they view as being threatening. However, recent studies suggest that it is not just the level of self-esteem but stability that is relevant to understanding this process. As such, researchers have looked to related constructs, such as narcissism, in trying to understand aggressive behaviors. Narcissism is characterized by a dissociation between an unconscious sense of inadequacy and a conscious feeling of superiority. A large number of studies examining the relationship between narcissism and violence have recently been published within both clinical and student populations. This review aimed to systematically collate the findings of such studies and integrate them within current theories of violence. Electronic literature databases such as Web of Science, MEDLINE, PsychINFO, EMBASE, Cochrane databases, and LexisNexis (legal database) were searched to identify studies examining the relationship between narcissism and violence. Twenty articles were included in this review, describing 25 separate samples. Findings suggest that narcissism is relevant in understanding aggression and violence. This was consistent across both clinical and nonclinical populations and therefore does not appear to be an artifact of studying either very violent or student samples. Evidence from student samples strongly supported the association between narcissism and aggression following an ego threat, while studies using clinical samples did not examine the effect of an ego threat. These findings may have an impact on how we understand, predict, and reduce violence.
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School shootings tear the fabric of society. In the wake of a school shooting, parents, pediatricians, policymakers, politicians, and the public search for "the" cause of the shooting. But there is no single cause. The causes of school shootings are extremely complex. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, we wrote a report for the National Science Foundation on what is known and not known about youth violence. This article summarizes and updates that report. After distinguishing violent behavior from aggressive behavior, we describe the prevalence of gun violence in the United States and age-related risks for violence. We delineate important differences between violence in the context of rare rampage school shootings, and much more common urban street violence. Acts of violence are influenced by multiple factors, often acting together. We summarize evidence on some major risk factors and protective factors for youth violence, highlighting individual and contextual factors, which often interact. We consider new quantitative "data mining" procedures that can be used to predict youth violence perpetrated by groups and individuals, recognizing critical issues of privacy and ethical concerns that arise in the prediction of violence. We also discuss implications of the current evidence for reducing youth violence, and we offer suggestions for future research. We conclude by arguing that the prevention of youth violence should be a national priority. (PsycINFO Database Record
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Conventional wisdom has regarded low self-esteem as an important cause of violence, but the opposite view is theoretically viable. An interdisciplinary review of evidence about aggression, crime, and violence contradicted the view that low self-esteem is an important cause. Instead, violence appears to be most commonly a result of threatened egotism--that is, highly favorable views of self that are disputed by some person or circumstance. Inflated, unstable, or tentative beliefs in the self's superiority may be most prone to encountering threats and hence to causing violence. The mediating process may involve directing anger outward as a way of avoiding a downward revision of the self-concept.
【Abstract】Objective: To explore the mediating effect of hostile cognition between narcissism and dating violence. Methods: Narcissistic Personality Inventory of College Students(CSNPI), Chinese College Students’Version of Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire, Chinese Version of Revised Conflict Tactics Scales(CTS2) were administrated to 448 juniors involved in a romantic relationship. Results: The scores on narcissism, hostile cognition and dating violence were significantly positively correlated with each other. Hostile cognition fully mediated the relationships between overt narcissism and psychological abuse. Hostile cognition fully mediated the relationships between covert narcissism and physical assault, covert narcissism and psychological abuse, covert narcissism and sexual coercion, respectively. Conclusion: Narcissism exerts influence dating violence of college students directly, and indirectly through hostile cognition. 【Key words】Narcissism; Hostile cognition; Dating violence
Objective There exist significant gaps in our understanding and knowledge of the contributory factors which give rise to the development of a mass shooter. Method A case analysis is presented of Anders Behring Breivik who engaged in a bombing and shooting spree in Norway on July 22, 2011. Results The case analysis presents that he has diagnoses of Asperger's Syndrome, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Traits/Disorder. Additionally, a forensic profile is presented that a narcissistic decompensation contributed to him developing a depression, followed by a rewrite of his life story where he is a hero defending Europe against a conspiracy. However his personal and political grievances and violent ideation placed him onto the Path to Intended/Terroristic Violence, which culminated in the attacks in Norway. Conclusions The present study suggests that there may be an association between NPD and violence, similar to other studies. However, the factor of narcissistic decompensation (possibly co-occurring with an Asperger's coping strategy) was presented as a critical component of NPD that mediated its relationship with violence. Furthermore, aspects from his Asperger's Syndrome and Narcissistic Decompensation contributed to his personal and political grievances and the other steps on the Path towards Intended/Terroristic Violence.
Previous research has found that narcissism is related to a number of anti-social behaviours such as domestic violence, sexual coercion, aggression, and general offending. However, no research to date has explored the relationship between narcissism and attitudes towards these types of behaviours. To address this shortfall, the present study (N =329) investigated narcissism and attitudes towards violence in a non-offending population. Males scored significantly higher on total narcissism and all attitudes towards violence. However, when narcissism was investigated in relation to specific attitudes, it was found that narcissistic females were equally accepting of violence as men were. In addition, attitudes towards violence in males related to more socially desirable, adaptive narcissism, whereas in females, attitudes towards violence were related to both adaptive and maladaptive narcissism. These new findings contribute to the very little we already know about narcissism and attitudes towards violence, and may provide the reason as to why narcissism relates to general offending behaviour; simply because they think it is acceptable.
Public mass shooters are often assumed to be an exceptionally American problem, but little is known about what proportion of global offenders attack in the United States, or how America’s offenders compare to those in other countries. The present study offers the first quantitative analysis of all known offenders from 1966 to 2012 who attacked anywhere on the globe and killed a minimum of four victims. The results suggest that public mass shooters in the United States are significantly more likely to arm themselves with multiple weapons and attack at school and workplace settings, while offenders from other countries are more likely to strike at military sites. These differences may be partially attributable to America’s national gun culture and its particular set of social strains.