Psychopathic Killers Essay, Research Paper
Abnormal psychology consists of three major groups of abnormal psychological disorders. The first group is psychotic, or psychoses, which involve a loss of contact with reality, The second group is non-psychotic, or neuroses, which do not make a break with reality, however can make life painful, unhappy, or ineffective. The final groups are personality disorders, which include the antisocial personalities known as psychopaths. Of the many types of disorders, the psychopathic killer is the most dangerous since this type of individual has the ability to commit atrocious acts of violence and often goes unnoticed. They could be a co-worker, a neighbor, or perhaps, any number of people with whom you come into contact with. When we think of the movie version of typical psychopathic killers, we immediately think of Hannibal Lector from “Silence of the Lambs,” or Norman Bates in “Psycho.” When we allow ourselves to think about real life psychopathic killers, names such as Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, Richard Ramirez, Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy come to mind. How could these people commit the atrocious crimes they were convicted of? To answer this question, we must explore the personality of the psychopathic killer. Psychopaths have been referred to by experts as “emotional shells.” In other words, the surface is there, however, there is no substance. Psychopaths usually have few, or no ties to their families. Any ties they do have are usually very shallow and since their need to both give and receive love is missing, they have no desire to maintain familial contact at all. Psychopaths have a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, as indicated by three or more of the following: Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for profit or pleasure Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated Physical fights or assaults Reckless disregard for safety of self or others Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or to honor financial obligations Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another Individual is at least eighteen A study conducted by Robert K. Ressler, Ann W. Burgess and John E. Douglas of thirty six psychopathic killers showed chilling similarities of common childhood behavioral traits among the incarcerated killers. The following is a chart listing the behavior indicators, the childhood number of and the percentage: Behavior Childhood Number Of Percent Daydreaming 28 82 Compulsive Masturbation 28 82 Isolation 28 71 Chronic Lying 28 71 Bed Wetting 22 68 Rebelliousness 27 67 Nightmares 24 67 Destroying Property 26 58 Fire Setting 25 56 Stealing 27 56 Cruelty To Children 28 54 Poor Body Image 27 52 Temper Tantrums 27 48 Sleep Problems 23 48 Assaultive to Adults 25 38 Phobias 24 38 Running Away 28 36 Cruelty to Animals 28 36 Accident Prone 24 29 Headaches 21 29 Destroying Possessions 25 28 Eating Problems 26 27 Convulsions 26 19 Self Mutilation 26 19 In reviewing the list above, we do notice behaviors which would be alarming – self mutilation, cruelty to children and animals and convulsions, however these types of behavior are more sever than the others mentioned. It is, however, the top three on the list that we may attribute to normal young behavior. The top three are the ones most reported as predominant among the killers – daydreaming, compulsive masturbation and isolation. The reason for this is that fantasy is a major component to the psyche of a psychopathic killer. When a child is left alone for long periods of time and left alone frequently, their minds begin to keep them company, which then begins the fantasy/dream world. During the fantasy, masturbation begins and the child becomes lost in this state of fantasy. A good example of this is the case of Ed Kemper, whose own mother forced him to stay in a windowless room in the basement, fearing that he would molest his sisters. Kemper, who was only ten years old, had not given his mother any reason to think that he might molest his sisters, however, her own sense of paranoia forced Kemper to sit alone in the basement and become angrier and more confused over time. At first, Kemper’s fantasies were normal, healthy reactions to the situation, the isolation and numerous verbal attacks from his mother. However, this increased anger gave him the opportunity to add bits and pieces to his fantasies until they became a dominant part of his life. The longer the fantasies continued, the more “perfect” they became. The isolation in this case that led to the violent fantasies eventually drove Kemper to kill and kill again, each murder becoming more vicious than the last. His final victims were his mother, along with her best friend. Are psychopathic killers abused as children? Studies of psychopathic killers show that, in most cases, the answer is – yes. The levels and kinds of abuse range from sexual to physical, to plain neglect to emotional abuse. The abuse may be full forced or it may be subtle, as in the case of neglect. Many times, where there is one type of abuse, other types occur, also. Many children who are physically abused are also verbally abused and/or neglected. Although it is not understood why some children deal with this better than others, it is obvious that abuse leaves an impression on the future psychopathic killer that alters his life drastically.
Another common factor among psychopathic killers is their relationship, or lack of relationship, with their families. The relationships were often strained and sometimes non-existent. Therefore, the psychopathic killer did not learn sufficient interaction. By not learning this inter-action with their families, they were also not taught how to inter-act with others outside the family which results in limited relationships throughout their lives. This lack of inter-action leads to more fantasies which become more violent with time and their acts become crueler until a stressor eventually takes them over the edge. According to recent criminal justice studies, psychopaths are responsible for more than half of all serious crimes. The so-called normal criminal has an internalized set of values, however warped, and this type of criminal feels guilt whenever he violates his own standards. The psychopath, in comparison, doesn’t even know what guilt is because he has never experienced it. The psychopathic killer is, however, very adept at faking guilt and portraying charm. The psychopathic killer fully understands right from wrong, but his gratification is more important than our societal rules. Psychopathic killers often brag about grandiose life ambitions, but often lack the skills, or ambition to achieve their goals. Psychopathic killers are easily bored and crave immediate gratification. Studies of these monsters have shown that, quite often, they have very high intelligence levels. When caught in a lie, the psychopath will shift blame, or suddenly switch topics with no apparent embarrassment. Even within our nation’s prison populations, all psychopaths, including psychopathic killers stand out because their antisocial and illegal behavior is more varied and more frequent than that of ordinary criminals. In both prisons and in mental hospitals, the psychopath is generally the nastiest and often, the most dangerous of inmates and patients. These individuals are more resistant to treatment, more likely to attempt escape and more violent with other inmates/patients and the staff. Researchers have found that the incidence of psychopathy is higher as the security level of the prison increases. Psychopaths are poorer risks for conditional release and if these individuals are released, the psychopath will offend again at four to five times the rate of other criminals. Psychopaths are estimated to constitute one to two percent of the population of the United States, but, in comparison, they account for twenty to twenty five percent of our prison population. These figures indicate that the United States has an estimated two million psychopaths. Men are much more likely to be psychopaths than women. Of this number, criminologists fear that many are killers who have not yet been caught, or who will likely commit a vicious murder or murders. In conclusion, society must become more adept at recognizing and reporting problems in childhood that may have an effect on whether an individual has the potential to become a psychopathic killer. We must also recognize that while these individuals are unfortunate enough to lack the capability to form lasting bonds with other people, show or experience meaningful emotion, or escape the constant threat of boredom, they are extremely dangerous and oftentimes cannot be rehabilitated. They are manipulative, pathological liars who have no remorse regarding the injustices and harm they cause to others. They have no conscience and are able to think only of themselves and their self gratification. However, if there is ever to be a clear understanding as to what motivates them, or how their minds exactly operate, new methods of research must be implemented. Since much of the research conducted on psychopaths is done on persons incarcerated in prisons or mental institutions, there must be a level of control for any confounds that may be associated with the incarceration of test subjects. The restriction of privacy and the loss of freedoms must have some effect and possibly negatively bias the results of any tests given to this particular population. Until researchers can introduce adequate amounts of research on this puzzling and scary disorder, society’s knowledge of psychopathy will continue to be severely limited. ReferencesBartol, Curt R. (1995). Criminal Behavior: A Psychosocial Approach (4th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Hare, R.D. (1980). A research scale for the assessment of psychopathy in criminal populations. Personality and Individual Differences, 1, 111-119. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Vol 2, page 98, 1979 “Personality Disorders,” Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia. (C) 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. Hare, R.D., McPherson, L.M., & Forth, A. (1988). Male psychopaths and their criminal careers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 741-747. Magid, Ken and McKelvey, Carole A. (1987). High Risk: Children Without a Conscience. New York, NY. Bantam Books Hare, R.D. (1996). Psychopathy: A construct whose time has come. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 23, 25-32.