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Social Learning And How It Affected Richard Ramirez's Behavior

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Born in the year 1960 Ramirez was any average extroverted kid, but that changed in his adolescence. When he was 10, Ramirez started to smoke weed which opened the gateway of drugs for him. Richard Ramirez was constantly being exposed to his dysfunctional family. Ramirez’s father would constantly be in anger fits and physically abuse his older brother, Ruben. Ramirez was a loner and only really had his older his cousin as his only real friend to talk to. Ramirez’s cousin would show pictures of him raping a Vietnamese woman and another picture of her decapitated head. Later, he witnessed his cousin murder his own wife at gun point. At this point his only adolescent life experiences were just traumatizing and tainted his brain development, as a result it would lead him down a dark path where sexual deviancy and abuse was not a wrong thing to do.

By 1984 he would start his series of brutally murdering families and raping women in Los Angeles and the bay area, California. He was deemed with the title of Night Stalker by the media at the time even though he rarely ever stalked his victims before killing them. He would brutally murder 13 people and rape 11 women during his time, a lot of his killings were done differently in nature and as a result of that it was difficult to categorize Ramirez on what kind of killer he was. He also never aimed at a specific group of people to kill which made it harder to identify the killer. Ramirez had 14 victims in total, and he was sentenced to death. He would die in prison before being sentenced to death because of complications secondary to B-Cell Lymphoma.

Ramirez was purely influenced by his social surroundings and because of that he fits with cultural deviance theory. Social Learning Theory is a theory that suggests People are influenced by the place, people, and social structure of the community in which they reside. This connects with the fact that low class societies such as where Ramirez lived had sinister living norms that cemented the wrong ideas into his mind, this theory is especially effective in Ramirez’s case because he started experiencing all of these traumatizing events during key points of his brain development.

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Ramirez’s social learning started with, Mike, Ramirez’s older cousin. Mike was a Vietnam war veteran and he was a green beret, meaning that Mike had a lot of knowledge about the battlefield. Mike would spend a lot of time around Ramirez and showed him how to defend himself, to use stealth, to kill and to use many different kinds of weapons. Mike would be the primary influence on Ramirez’s social learning and as a result, he would slowly start learning how to act by observing his cousin. Ramirez would even idolize Mike because he was his only real friend despite having 4 other siblings and a group of friends, he was only really around his cousin for the majority of his early adolescence. Mike included to show him some photos of him forcing oral sex onto a Vietnamese women with a followup image of her decapitated head, It is important to note that Ramirez did in fact get turned on and aroused by the sight of these images. He knew it was wrong to feel aroused by those images Mike showed him, but he had to keep it to himself or Mike would get in trouble(Grise, 2000). Ramirez had no deviant or criminal behavior before he started being around Mike, meaning that he had a pretty clear mental state when he was observing Mike. This was the point Ramirez had started to associate sexual interest and violence together, using social learning theory, he learned this way of thinking and behavior from being around Mike. Sometime later he would throw a rock through a neighbor’s window, when Ramirez’s mother was notified of his actions she just shrugged it off and gave it no thought(Linedecker, 2004). This would be another important event that would further reinforce Ramirez’s behavior, he committed vandalism and his mother did not seem to care. This has no direct correlation to observing someone as social learning theory states, since he never observed vandalism. What it shows is violence, this type of behavior is connected to what he learned previously from observing Mike, and his bad friend group. Not too long later after the photos incident Mike would shoot and murder his wife over an argument, all while Ramirez witnesses and observes the whole situation. Mike was arrested as a result. This could be argued to be the breaking for what was left of Ramirez’s innocence. After this ordeal is when Ramirez had to started to heavily use weed, skipping school and he also had started to steal money to support his drug money(‘The Night Stalker: Serial Killer Richard Ramirez,’ 2012). Observing Mike’s behavior had a lot of built up tension welled inside of Ramirez as he was not allowed to talk to anyone about these things. Without the proper guidance, the only kind of guidance left in Ramirez’s life was Mike. Ramirez had slowly started to dissociate violence with the societal norms and his future behavior would show for it. By 1973 he went to Los Angeles for the first time to meet up with his older brother Ruben, During his time there he had started to get into pornography and Ruben would teach Ramirez how to pick locks, open windows from the other side, and alarm systems. After his visit in Los Angeles Ramirez would start to be around with the wrong group of people, they would get into quite a bit of trouble like smoking weed and breaking into houses and stealing valuables. Ramirez did in fact have a sexual partner when he was 17, her name was Nancy Avila. Nancy would describe Ramirez as gentle, considerate, and caring of a sexual partner. Nancy states that by the year 1978 came around he was more invested into sadistic means of sexual pleasure, coincidentally that is around the time Mike gets released from prison and continues to hang out with Ramirez again. The behavior and memories would spark inside Ramirez when he reunited with Mike again.

By 1978 he moved to Los Angeles he got arrested on a few occasions when he started practicing petty crimes like breaking and entering, stealing, and auto theft. Ramirez was getting better at breaking into and burglarizing homes, he eventually would be bold enough to stay a little while longer to look at the inhabitants sleeping and to fantasize about what he could do to them. What Mike had shown Ramirez 6 years ago finally started to solidify his behavior in to the real world, his fantasies about sex and violence would soon become a reality. Ramirez felt compelled to do more, and by 1984 is when Ramirez’s fantasies became a reality. All the things that Ramirez has learned by observing throughout his life, drugs, violence, killing techniques, pick locking, treating women finally all came to play. Simple breaking and entering became more than just hunting for drug money, Ramirez would start with killing and raping women whenever he broke into a house. His whole drive was to sate his hungry for sex and violence, he raped and killed around a total of 11 women. For every victim he had he took a piece of souvenir with him that belonged to the women to relive that experience over and over. This is very familiar with what Mike did when he showed Ramirez the rape photo, it was not necessarily a souvenir that belonged to the Vietnamese woman, but it did hold an important memory of when she was raped. Mike had taught him when he was in his adolescence on how to use various amounts of weapons like a gun or a knife, because of this observant behavior Ramirez was incredibly efficient and unpredictable in his killings. When Ramirez murdered his first victim it was probably easy for him to do as the whole time he grew up he only really associated women with sex and violence. This theory can be backed up with the fact that Ramirez continued to offend and rape because he wanted to experience the rush more. After seeing more than one dead woman in his adolescent age, his observant brain told him that Mike’s behavior is fine because he had also done it in front of him. The motivation that Ramirez had gotten out of violence is sexual pleasure and that was known when he observed the photograph of the Vietnamese woman. He noticed how happy Mike was when Mike shot his wife and when Mike raped and killed a Vietnamese woman, he wanted to feel something similar to what Mike did. In general the social learning theory can be a bit misleading when it comes to why he stole all the cars he did and why he supposedly stopped caring about school because from what is known about Ramirez there is no social learning indicators that would be able to answer the question. However a theory could be argued that he stopped caring about school because it was a byproduct of how his personality changed or because the new and deviant friend group he was with more did not participate in school either meaning he would have observed the behavior, however this was never stated in any piece of information. Regarding why he stole all those cars is because he needed getaway vehicles with the intent of murdering and raping more women.

Overall the majority of what Ramirez did go in hand with the social learning theory, there is just a large amount of evidence that the moment that Ramirez observes socially unacceptable behavior, the way he thinks and acts completely changes. Social learning theory had little to no behavioral evidence at all to explain why Ramirez was suddenly not interested in school. Social learning also fails to explain why Ramirez stole cars by using the master key to all Toyotas and Datsuns. There was never any observant learning to why he stole cars instead of using other means of transportation since he was in Los Angeles after all.

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Social Learning And How It Affected Richard Ramirez’s Behavior. (2021, September 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from
“Social Learning And How It Affected Richard Ramirez’s Behavior.” Edubirdie, 16 Sept. 2021,
Social Learning And How It Affected Richard Ramirez’s Behavior. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Sept. 2023].
Social Learning And How It Affected Richard Ramirez’s Behavior [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 16 [cited 2023 Sept 21]. Available from:
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