That age old question: Nature vs Nurture. Are we born evil, or is evil thrust upon us?
In the publication of Beyond the Pleasure Principle in 1920, Freud came up with two theories about the aggression in which humans express. Creating two different and opposing instincts, Freud came up with the death instinct and the life instinct. The death instinct is that of destructive behaviour towards the society around them. What Freud had found that led him to the theory of the death instinct was that those he had studied who had experienced unpleasing experiences kept repeating those experiences even though they were still unpleasing.
This is now commonly known as ‘the definition of insanity’, which is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Though Freud hits the nail on the head that those with destructive behaviour tend to repeat the same actions over and over again, I do believe that serial killers qualify for only a fraction of this theory.
Though serial killers repeatedly commit the same acts of destruction and violence, it is not a totally unpleasing experience for them. When Dahmer committed his first murder at the age of eighteen, he began drinking heavily because in his conscious he knew that what he did was unacceptable. Though he knew what he did was wrong he still felt pleasure from committing such horrible acts of violence.
Understanding how and why serial killers commit such horrific crimes is an important step to stopping the homicidal rampages that these psycho-killers go on. Scientists searched and found what is believed to be ‘hard evidence’, that genetics is the key role in determining who becomes a serial killer – unlike criminologists and psychologists who argue that large events such as abuse and abandonment create the setting and foundation in which serial killers grow into sadistic mass murders.
Though both arguments are strongly proved and explained through research and statistics, neither are individually the answer to why serial killers exist. I think it can be found that it is a mix of both genetics and cultural upbringings.
So, it’s a little bit of nature AND nurture.
Though many humans must deal with violent situations as children and experience horrific events and as a result do not become mass murderers, it is true that many children who are victims of abuse become violent in their adult lives. But to cross into the category of a serial killer, one must be born with a different biochemical makeup, right?
Nature does choose what traits we are born with to an extent but at the same time these traits cannot be exposed without a mechanism that triggers these individuals to commit these horrific crimes. Without the alignment of both natural genetic defects and the cultural nurturing in which humans are brought up in, serial killers cannot become vicious killers. In my opinion, if we can curb domestic violence, then the chances for a serial killer to become violent will decrease significantly – making our world a safer place to be… but then I wouldn’t have anything to write about. #SwingsAndRoundabouts
Now, referring back to that lovely image up top of Hannibal Lecter – it states that psychopaths’ brains are actually different.
Above is a picture of a serial killers brain compared to his sons. The left is the son and the right is the serial killer. Fallon (the serial killer) has dark spots behind his eyes, unlike his sons. These spots are involved with ethical behaviour, moral decision, and impulse control. The left brain of his son shows a normal scan.
This poster below goes into a little bit more detail…