Serial killers have long been of interest to American popular culture as well as criminal psychologists. A serial killer is defined as an individual who commits three or more acts of murder over an extended period of time (Allely, Minnis, Thompson, Wilson, & Gillberg, 2014). Typically, these killings involve the sexual assault of their victims as well as sadistic acts of torture.
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These men and women who commit these extreme and prolonged acts of violence are important yet difficult to study. Due to the rarity of serial killers, more research needs to be done to further the existing scholarship regarding serial killers. Serial killers are an extreme example of the behavior that can arise from people who have anti-social personality disorder. Not only does the presence of a personality disorder influence their actions, but biological and social processes have an impact on whether a person will engage in this severe level of killings. Sometimes these murders are calculated and victims are chosen to fit a desired killing type, or victims are chosen due to opportunity. These serial killers can be charismatic and charming, such as Ted Bundy, or isolated and detached like Jeffrey Dahmer. The factors that aid in the making of a serial killer are complex and involve specific psychological aspects of personality, biological processes, and negative environmental stressors.
The presence of anti-social personality disorder is one of the main psychological indicators that a person is at risk for engaging in serial killings (Kocsis & Irwin, 1998). Individuals who have anti-social personality disorders have a persistent disregard for human life (Kring, Johnson, Davidson, Neale, 2016). They feel almost no empathy for their victims and may know that what they are doing is wrong, but they continue to kill regardless of the consequences. Not all people who are diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder will become a serial killer, but most serial killers have an anti-social personality disorder diagnosis (Culhane, Hilstad, Freng & Gray, 2011). According to the DSMV, the criteria for anti-social personality disorder is age at least 18 with an evidence of conduct disorder before age 15, and a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of others since the age of 15, as shown by at least three of the following: repeated law breaking, deceitfulness, lying, impulsivity, irritability and aggressiveness, reckless disregard for own safety and that of others, irresponsibility as seen in unreliable employment or financial history, and lack of remorse (Kring, Johnson, Davidson, Neale, 2016). The combination of these criteria puts an individual at risk for committing serial murders.
Another important psychological element to serial killers is psychopathy. Psychopathy involves the continuous violation of the rights of others, as well as a complete disregard for such rights (Kocsis & Irwin, 1998). It also involves a lack of empathy with the feelings of others and a lack of remorse for any offence or injury to others,
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