Psychology Theory Assignment Help

Psychology Theory Assignment Help

This is a solution of Psychology Theory Assignment Help which discusses about psychology theories and how it can be used to stop crimes.

Applying Psychology to Real World Issues: Serial Killers


To identify the causes of a murder, motivation has been the primary question of focus behind research studies. Biological predispositions, sociological influences and psychological factors are some of the theories that help in understanding different types of murders and the mind of a murderer. Earlier, the law system grouped any desperate activity as ‘homicide’, disregarding the motivations and variety in the act (Farmer and Hooker, 1987). Researches have helped the law in dividing different kinds of homicides into categories such as; mass murder, spree killing, and serial killing. Serial killing has been defined as a series of killings committed over a considerable spam of time with a cooling off period (Schlecter and Everitt, 1997).

Figuring out another’s mind has always been an act of curiosity and entertainment for humans. Detective shows, mystery and thriller novels have been one of the most popular genres of entertainment and literature respectively, proving that people have an obvious interest in not only understanding the mind of a killer and the people who try to catch them, but also in the ideal happy ending. That may not be the case in real life, however. Police doesn’t always succeed in catching the right criminal, and at times, might never catch them at all, as in the Jack the Ripper case of the 19th century. The segment of a 2004 TV show, ‘The Mind Of A Serial Killer’, took a peek into the Gary Ridgeway murders of 1980’s. Ridgeway, a truck painter, was arrested and found guilty in 2003 for the murders of 48 women, most of them prostitutes.When asked for the reason, he replied, “Because they were prostitutes and I killed them because I wanted to kill them” (Leung, 2004).Elizabeth Bathory, widely known as the Blood Countess and the most successful killers of all time, reportedly killed about 650 people (all of them young virgin girls) till her death in the late 1500’s. Her only known motive was that with her rituals of torturing, killing, and drinking her victim’s blood, she would stay young and beautiful forever. Was pure vanity her only drive? Do all serial killers have psychopathic personality, a hedonistic outlook on like, and a pronounced lack of conscience? (Meadows, 2004).

To answer these questions,under health care management psychology has done comparisons between previous serial killers (like Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Bathory, John Wayne Gacy, and Gilles de Rais), and those of modern times (like Ted Bundy, William Bonin, and Adolph Hitler), and conclusions have been drawn in determining the common factors in each suspect’s life and understanding the true motives behind such desperate acts.

Psychological theories and contradictions

The current level of psychological research doesn’t provide a concrete tool of identifying serial killers. As such, a serial killer is often assumed to be ‘out of his mind’. The main cause of this is judicial restriction which makes it hard to approach serial murdered in confinement and establish a concrete frame of reference (Vetter, 1991). With the remaining options, researchers have succeeded in developing dissociative experience tools, comprising of a 28 item self-report questionnaire, which helps in relative categorization of the serial murders (Bernstein and Putnam, 1986).

To avoid critical conditions, health promotion intervention is necessary. Serial murders can, thus, be divided into four categories; the visionary type- serial killers who respond to “voices” within, the mission oriented type- those aiming to eliminate a particular category of people, the power/control type- those seeking satisfaction from control over life and death of a victim, andthe hedonistic type- serial killers who find pleasure and thrill in the act (Holmes and DeBurger, 1988).

The psychological theory behind serial murder says that antisocial personality disorder is the most predominant trait of a serial killer. Individuals with such disorder exhibit superficial charm, intelligence, rational thinking, lack of nervousness, poor judgment, insincerity, untruthfulness, pathogenic egocentricity, and lack of love. Generally, a serial killer, when involved in a criminal act doesn’t experience any remorse or guilt, and is indifferent to anxiety or tension. Theoretically, a serial killer’s behavior “may be due to a deficient psychological makeup that prevents normal emotional development” (Sears, 1991).  This lack of emotion may be considered as the driving force behind the repeated act of killing. David Lunde in his book “Murder and Madness” has stated that paranoid schizophrenia and sexual sadism are the two main categories that a serial killer fits into (Lunde, 1976). However, researchers believe that while sexual sadism as a classification can be accurate; schizophrenia in general, cannot be related to the behavior of serial killer. According to them, underlying hatred towards a category or group of people, such as women, young men or boys, plays an important role in the motivation to kill. This is often referred to as ‘displaced aggression’ in psychological terms (Sears, 1991).

Psychological diseases need same level of care and attention as needed in cancer health care. Some psychoanalysts also believe that absence of emotional development, probably due to lack of parenting in early childhood, might be the prime reason behind serial killers’ crimes. However, absence of clinical testing and objective evaluation fail to accurately correlate poor parenting and retarded emotional development.


Upon analyzing the psychological theories in the literature review, it comes out that the primary focus of most of the researchers, while examining serial killing is mental illness. Any outrageous or incomprehensible act is often viewed by the society as pathologic. A serial murderer is socially and quickly labeled as monstrous, and something which cannot be understood. Serial killers have been historically categorized as psychopaths or sociopaths, with no clear distinction between the two. Freudian theory relates serial killing with diversion or perversion of the sexual impulse, and labels serial killers as “cold, calculating and egotistically sadistic” (DeRiver, 1949). However, Morrison, a practicing psychotherapist who examined serial killer John Wayne Gacy for 800 hours, believes otherwise, and classifies serial killers as a new personality type not necessarily driven by sexual impulse. In the book ‘Murder and Madness’, Lunde has called serial killers insane (Lunde, 1976). However, from a psychological perspective, they need not be insane even if the law labels them so. Such relationship of psychotic personality disorder with serial killing is highly questionable, as there is no concrete evaluation tool. Researchers have also tried to relate dissociation, a state of being ‘out of one’s mind’, with the behavior of serial killers. However, there is no concrete evaluation tool for such relationship, and although, psychotic dissociation can easily be detected clinically, it is almost impossible for it to be coherent with the actions of a serial killer. An individual with such mental illness is incapable of evading capture, and therefore, the research has fails to link dissociation as a symptom of psychotic personality disorder and the prime aspect of a serial killer’s behavior.

Their is a need of ethical decision making in healthcare. Researchers have also stated that serial killing is closely related to multiple personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Individuals with such disorders have superficial charm, intelligence, rational thought, unreliability, insincerity, poor judgment, egocentricity and lack of love. They are generally out of touch with reality, and often see their victims as some objects. Although they have the social perception of righteousness, their mind lives off in a fantasy world. This behavior is often closely related, in Freudian aspects, theoretically with sexual impulse or paraphilia; which is mostly driven by the existing fantasy in the serial killer’s life.


Serial killing has been a topic of psychological study for centuries, yet it continues to bewilder human mind. To study the criminal mind of a serial killer and develop an understanding of the socially unacceptable acts, researchers have approached different possibilities in every biological, psychological and sociological way. In the book “Serial Killer”, the author has marked ‘serial killer syndrome’ as the fundamental behavior pattern behind serial killing. By incorporating ‘serial killer syndrome’ in theory, the author has tried to devise a profile or predisposition by listing 21 patterns or symptoms of episodic aggressive behavior. These patterns of aggressive behavior include ritualistic behavior,masks of insanity, compulsivity, search for help, severe memory disorders and chronic inability to tell the truth, suicidal tendencies, history of serious assault,deviate sexual behavior and hyper sexuality, head injuries incurred at birth, history of chronic drug and alcohol abuse, alcohol or drug abusing parents, victim of physical or emotional abuse or of cruel parenting, results of an unwanted pregnancy, products of a difficult gestation period for the mother, interrupted bliss or no bliss of childhood, extraordinary cruelty to animals, arousal tendencies without obvious homicidal interest, symptoms of neurological impairment,evidence of genetic disorders, biochemical symptoms and feelings of powerlessness or inadequacy (Norris, 1988). The extensive list characterizes and distributes attributes to a serial killer and almost accurately and acceptably summarizes the psychological aspects of the serial killing behavior mentioned in the literature research. In their book “Our Wish to Kill”, Dr. Herbert Strean and Lucy Freeman have rightly theorized the absolute idea that “the instinct to murder lurks within all of our psyches and that some people can control those urges better than others”. On how many occasions does an individual get angry with their spouse, partner or children and wish they could just kill them? But do they really succumb to the thought? While most of us have witnessed a tragedy of murder, or have directly or indirectly been acquainted with a murderer, it is not unrealistic to think that such an impulsive thought can actually come into action. During such thoughts, the actions of the process always come into mind, and the research simply cannot explain that. Serial killing has always baffled psychologists, and even with an array of similarities within the characteristic profile of the offenders, mind of a serial killer has always been a mystery locked.


  • Bernstein, E.M. and Putnam, F.W. 1986. Development, reliability and validity of a dissociation scale. J. Nerv. Ment. Dis.174 (12), pp. 727-35
  • DeRiver, J.P. 1949. Crime and the sexual psychopaths.Charles C. Thomas: Springfield, IL.
  • Farmer, D.J. and Hooker, J.E. 1987. Homicide policy and program analysis: understanding and coping in local government. (Commonwealth paper). Virginia Commonwealth University, Center of Public Affairs: Richmond, VA.
  • Holmes, R.M. and DeBurger, J. 1988. Serial Murder.Sage: Newbury, CA.
Assignment Help Australia is committed to plagiarism free assignments. This free Psychology Theory Assignment Help is complete solution based on case study.