Do Serial Killers Have Different Brains?

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Table of contents

  1. Background
  2. Evidence
  3. Conclusion
  4. Evaluation

In the recent century, we have experienced many suffer to the serial killer culture. Whereas we have questioned whether their life experiences have affected their life choice. Referring to psychology, the brain plays a key role in consciousness, language, thought, perceptual awareness, attention and memory (human-memory, 2019). Life experience is the experience and knowledge gained through living (Merriam-Webster, 2020). It goes through from childhood to adult. As a result, life experiences will inflict deep memory in one's mind. It may also sharpen one's personality. Meanwhile, it is worth investigating whether killers have different brains. In this research investigation, 'the different brains' refers to different memories and thoughts that contribute to behaviors. Therefore, as exploring the factors for developing abnormal behaviors, it is crucial to explore the life experiences and reasons contributed to act violent behaviors.


What life experience contribute to making a person into a killer? A trauma does. A trauma is a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury (Merriam-Webster, 2020). In other words, an emotional upset. Bad life experiences usually occur in childhood and stains in one mind’s permanently from 10-15 years old (Sissons, C. medicalnewstoday, 2020). This is due to where all the proper ageing begins, and they cannot control how they think properly. Bad life experience includes conflict between parents, sickness, adversity and child abuse (Zimlich. R, RN, BSN. ContemporaryPediatrics, 2019). Some would say it could lead to a more purposeful life, some wouldn’t. Despite this, not everyone would choose the same pathway and that is why killers are created.


Clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone has spent her career investigating the making of a murderer and the relationship between a hurt child and a violent adult. Few years back from 2015, working as an author and director of research and education for the Glendon Association. She was creating a violence assessment scale. To do this, she had visited high-security prisons to interview those who committed illegal violent crimes such as murder. As she came across each inmate, the first question she would always ask would be “How did you come to be a violent person?”. It wasn’t a surprise that she received an answer as her prediction would be. Without doubt, every person was to answer with a gruesome trauma is their childhood (Firestone, L. psychologytoday, 2015).

According to a journal of Medical Law by Mehra, Samavati on “A study on mental disorder in serial killers”. A recent experiment was made about the mind and mental disorder in a serial killer. The study was to demonstrate the amount of serial killers who are diagnosed as mentally ill rather than other causes. As a result, 20 out of 31 confessed killers are diagnosed as mentally ill. Out of the 20 confessed killers, 64% of them had suffered from frontal lobe abnormalities. To further analysis their data on the study of the profiles, researchers discovered that many serial killers had suffered severe head injuries from the frontal lobe in the brain when they were just young as a child. With that said, damage to the frontal lobe could be the cause of continuous killing. It is also stated that the frontal lobe is responsible for stabilizing behaviors and social relations. Moreover, it also has the functions of planning, self-control, judgment, the control of individual and social needs and some other effective social functions. Therefore, if one damages their frontal lobe, he or she will prone to develop abnormal personal behavior and negative thinking, this would consequently affect severe deficits to make wrong decision-makings (Mebra & Pirouz, 2012).

A limitation of this evidence is that the population of this survey is comparatively small, which the population size is only 31. The larger number there is in the population, the better the outcome or result can be generalized. Based on the discussion stated previously above, damage to the frontal lobe may lead to change in personality. It will also cause an increase to develop abnormal behaviors and suffers from terrible life experiences. Therefore, negative life experiences are contributed to the mind of a serial killer.

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According to a study that stated negative life experiences is not the only reason contributing abnormal behavior, genes are also biological creatures in human being. Genes without experiences develop nothing. As human brain needs a long process of neurodevelopment, the neural system will develop with life experiences creating think, feel and act. Moreover, the neural systems can take response to experience throughout the life cycle. Therefore, the process of creating a human being requires both genes and experiences. Furthermore, the study stated that a survey was done for the neurobiological findings about neglect in early childhood. In this survey, 122 neglected children were divided into 4 groups. The findings suggested that early life neglect will have poor effect on human brain growth. Consequently, this survey reflects that life experiences in childhood may affect sensory input and social interaction that contributed to abnormal behaviors (Perry, 2002).

A limitation of this evidence is that the year of publication is not a recent publication within a five-year range. As a result, the data may not be updated, and the information may not be accurate to reality. Based on the discussion stated previously above, genes development with life experiences may sharpen one’s personality. Childhood experiences play a vital role in shaping the function of the brain. Eventually, negative life experiences with genetic issues may contribute to the mind of a serial killer.

In addition, emotional neglect in early childhood may develop social emotional problems. Maternal-child relationship provides the framework for the child to develop subsequent relationships. A study stated that more than 85% of children having abuse or neglect may increase risk for violent and aggressive behaviors (Carlson et al, 1989 cited in Perry, 2002). A limitation of this evidence is that the data of the survey is not generalized recently. Hence, it may affect the reliability and validity.

Based on the discussion stated previously above, life experiences throughout the life cycle may disturb one’s emotional growth.


Serial killers form a special problem because their motives are less obvious. There are several evidences suggested that life experiences may be related to some kinds of abnormal behaviors. If one damages their frontal lobe, he or she will prone to develop abnormal personal behavior and negative thinking, this would consequently affect severe deficits to make wrong decision-makings. Moreover, genes development with life experiences may sharpen one’s personality. Childhood experiences play a vital role in shaping the function of the brain. Eventually, negative life experiences with genetic issues may contribute to the mind of a serial killer. Furthermore, children having abuse or neglect may increase risk for violent and aggressive behaviors. As a result, these are the conclusions for “Killers have different brains”.


There are several limitations for this study. First, the searching strategy in this research investigation is mainly electronic searching using computer- held databases but limited electronic databases are used. As I am not getting familiar with all the electronic databases, only Google, internet from school library and Google Scholar are used. Since the research question is answered by generalizing the results of selected studies, the limited electronic databases used will narrow the searching process for getting different kind of papers for review. Second, only three studies and six reference sources from internet are identified as research investigation since my arrangement of time frame for the searching process is short. Moreover, the scope of searching areas may be limited as the way of searching literature is not skillful and this will affect my results of literature searching. The limited literature used may affect the reliability and validity of research investigation result. As the first time being a researcher, it is challenging for me to arrange the time to finish the research investigation. As I am getting familiar with the searching method, so the time used in searching the articles is so tight. Therefore, the time arrangement/management is important. Moreover, I understand that the skill of searching strategy will affect the results of searching studies as the quality of selected studies may affect the validity of the research investigation. In addition, when I read the selected studies, it is better to drop down the important points of each study, so it will help to write the summary and more time saving. These are the experiences gained in the process of writing this research investigation. On the other hand, for the improvement to the experiment, it is suggested that more investigations about the relationship between frontal lobe damage, terrible childhood life experiences and the aggressive behavior. Furthermore, it will be more reliable that can increase the size of research population.

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Do Serial Killers Have Different Brains? (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
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