Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Health Psychology, Legal Ethical Issues.

Description: So here is a thought that you may not wish to dwell upon, but when you hear the news account of an individual accused of mass murder is one of your first thoughts that regardless of what else is true they must be mentally ill? You may not of taken this thought the next step which is to ask whether in fact it is true. The article linked below asks this question directly and looks at some research data that suggest that the answer might be somewhat unsettling.

Source: Investigating the Minds of Mass Killers, Benedict Carey, New York Times.

Date: April 3, 2016

Mass Murderers

Photo Credit: Zohar Lazar

Links: Article Link —

It seems like a fair assumption that an individual who murders a number of other individuals in particular those that go on what are sometimes in the media referred to his killing sprees, must be mentally ill. But how true is this? Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist, has created a database of information about 200 mass murderers including both spree and serial killers and is come to the conclusion that at least half of them showed no signs of mental illness prior to their blood he acts. For the 25%, while presenting in ways that seemed very strange, do not seem to fit into any clear diagnostic category. The result is that only about 25% of mass murderers upon the categories that suggest that they may have benefited that they received some form of psychotherapy prior to beginning their killing sprees. One of the biggest issues here is the infrequency of the sorts of events. Predicting very low frequency events from any perspective, but particularly from a psychological perspective, is very very difficult if not impossible. There are some things that we can do such as identifying young isolated largely male teenagers who have made threats either directly or through social media and providing them with some sort of support for therapy. However, we are some distance away to be able to take an effective preventative approach towards the sorts of, admittedly horrific, situations.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sort of presenting symptoms were diagnostic categories might you consider looking at if you’re trying to predict whether someone was at risk for harming a number of other people?
  2. Is this direction of thinking a potential useful one for trying to reduce the number of mass or spree murderers?
  3. What sorts of things might clinical or developmental psychologists, teachers, physicians, or others do, if anything, about this?

References (Read Further):

Stone, M. H. (2009). The anatomy of evil. Prometheus Books.

Allely, C. S., Minnis, H., Thompson, L., Wilson, P., & Gillberg, C. (2014). Neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in serial killers and mass murderers. Aggression and violent behavior, 19(3), 288-301.