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Serial Killers: Patient Groups Investigated by Psychology and Psychiatry

Serial killers belong to one of the patient groups investigated by psychology and psychiatry. Psychologically, serial killers are characterized as people with psychosis and dissocial personality disorders. The murder of a stranger is not seen as mainly motivated by prior interpersonal frictions in the killer-victim relationship, but rather as the outcome of some other interpersonal reason. More than dual relationship killings, the issues of serial murders create a principal social concern with psychological and social factors rather than simple problem of law enforcement agencies (Vronsky 41). Critics admit that there is every reason to believe that independently and collectively, members of community respond in like fashion to the relational distance of the murderer and his victim. Recent years, tolerance for the act of killing is greatly reduced as the relational distance between the slaughterer and victim is increased.

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The notion and concept of serial murders have different explanations and definitions based on different psychological and psychiatric characteristics. Burgess, D’Agostino, and Douglas (1984 cited Schechter 2003, p. 54) provide a very brief definition:

Serial homicide involves the murder of separate victims with time breaks between victims, as minimal as two days to weeks or months. These time breaks are referred to a “cooling off” period (p. 7).

Many killers concur and argue that relational distance is a very powerful predictor of legal behavior. The key feature of so-called “serial killers” is that several similar killings remain unsolved for a long time for a sequence of crimes to become obvious. That the murders are not solved sooner testifies to both the cunning of the murderer and the limitations of investigative assumptions and strategies (Vronsky 42).

In spite of great changes n law enforcement investigations and psychology, critics cannot say how many potential serial killers are caught after their first victims. A murderer who preys on acquaintances, for instance, is likely to be detected long before he has created a string of deaths labeled serial killer. Vronsky (2004) defined serial killers as: “

The serial murderer in an episodic frenzy can strike without warning. He often preys on the most vulnerable victims in his area and then moves on, leaving the police to find the missing persons and search for traces of the scant clues he has left behind (p. 65).

There are no clear assumptions about the nature of a serial killer’s action so it is difficult to prevent his being recognized or defined as killer. Many critics find it difficult to believe that the same killer would wound a young boy in one jurisdiction, shoot a woman in another, and kill a woman in a third. Current forensic understanding of the serial killers is limited by selective observation of the nature of serial killer and of who perpetrates such crime n some respects, serial killers should be easier to solve than one-time stranger-on-stranger murders. Multiple crimes give up multiple crime scenes with more evidence, more data on motives, and a greater possibility of detection by witnesses. Multiple crimes also involve a higher chance of killer contacts with possible victims who were not victimized or who survived attempted homicide. But unless police are oriented toward the possibility of a serial crime killing, these officers and psychologists are likely either to ignore or to be careless in pursuing leads that have no obvious relevance to the serial murders. Thus, apart from the need for regularly thorough initial investigations likely to detect serial killers before they kill again, law enforcement must consider new investigative emphases when faced with an apparent serial killers (Vronsky, p. 47).

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Psychology and psychiatry identify serial killers as persons suffered from social personal dividers and psychosis. Though, such a argument seems hollow given the fact that such philosophy is apparently nothing more than a lack of self-control and an unwillingness to delay gratification. Explications of such psychological behavior are indeed almost trite and often found in much of the more mainstream society (Vronsky, p. 45). Sociopaths or psychopaths are not psychologically ill or grossly out of touch with reality. Serial killers are not able to experience love or understanding due to family rejection and needs frustration. Schechter underlines that: ‘The crimes may occur over a period of time ranging from hours to years. Quite often the motive is psychological, and the offender’s behavior and the physical evidence observed at the scene will reflect sadistic, sexual overtones. (p. 65). They lack a sense of moral fault and are unable to delay drives for immediate satisfaction. These primary factors include unreliability, dishonesty, pathological lying, and self-interest; poor judgment and aggression; lack of remorse, blame, or shame; an inability to experience sympathy or concern for others, or to maintain close relations with other people. Theories regarding serial killers find psychological problems in their childhood and often connected with psychological trauma cited in the serial killing research literature and often referred to regarding the serial killers (Long 76).

Serial killers pscyhologists typically begin their search for information to identify suspects in two stages. First, pscyhologists examine a crime scene for evidence of victim conditions immediately prior to death, including factors as to the nature of the victim’s relations to his or her killer and killer motivation. Then Serial killers pscyhologists try to find and interview witnesses with the hope that witness evidence will help to identify a killer along with motives for his crime. Serial killers pscyhologists generally begin looking for suspects among victim acquaintances who might be provoked to kill. In reality, it is not unusual for pscyhologists to direct their witness evidence toward finding known suspects without considering aspects of the victim’s life that might point to suspects unknown to family and friends. The factors mentioned above help to identify the main drivers of a serial killer and find similarities between several murders or crime scenes. Vronsky (2003): “First, the data unequivocally contradicts the assumption that serial murderers are a recent phenomenon. Regardless of their typologies, serial murderers can be traced back 200 years” (p. 54). this fact suggests that serial killing is a social phenomenon caused by new social values and ideals of people. Taking into account this fact, psychologists go well beyond these basic stages in searching for a typical serial killer who has already defied discovery by the time his sequence of killings is apparent. A typical serial killer is mobile. His victims are typically strangers or he lacks established personal relations with his sufferers. His crimes appear senseless. Some known serial murders are social isolates. Serial killers have no friends to talk to or confide in. Some of the serial killers lead dual lives such that their friends “would never believe” they could commit a terrible crimes. In many cases, psychologists must also seek information from psychiatry and sociology.

In sum, serial killers are a modern phenomenon which requires psychological and psychiatric interventions. Most of serial killers differ from antisocial personality disorders are classified as psychopaths. Standardized formats for the classification and information processed by police services must be improved and collaboration with medical institutions should be established. Failing this, the opportunities of this computerization will be wiped out due to the incompatibility of information formats, thus exacerbating the problem of serial killing.

Works Cited

  1. Long, L. Multiple Mysterious Drownings: Accidents or Serial Murders?The Forensic Examiner, 15 (2006), 76.
  2. Schechter, H. The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World’s Most Terrifying Murderers. Ballantine Books; 1 edition, 2003.
  3. Vronsky, P. Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters. Berkley Trade; Trade edition edition, 2004.

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