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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 186225 Find in a Library
Title: Serial Murder: Popular Myths and Empirical Realities (From Homicide: A Sourcebook of Social Research, P 165-175, 1999, M. Dwayne Smith and Margaret A. Zahn, eds. -- See NCJ-186214)
Author(s): James Alan Fox; Jack Levin
Date Published: 1999
Page Count: 11
Sponsoring Agency: Sage Publications, Inc
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Sale Source: Sage Publications, Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
United States of America
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Book (Hardbound)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This chapter provides an overview of recent academic research on serial killers, the thrust of which departs significantly from what have become popular, but erroneous, beliefs about such killers.
Abstract: Ten "myths" about serial killers are challenged by the authors. The myth that there is an epidemic of serial murder in the United States is challenged by studies that suggest less than 1 percent of homicides are committed by serial killers; this does not, however, the authors caution, minimize the extreme deadliness of serial killers' predatory behavior. The second myth challenged is that serial killers are unusual in appearance and lifestyle. In fact, the lifestyles and social image of many serial killers would not distinguish them from nonviolent, law-abiding persons. A related myth is that serial killers are all insane. In either a legal or a medical sense, however, most serial killers are not insane or psychotic. They know right from wrong; know exactly what they are doing; and can control their desire to kill, but choose not to do so; they are more cruel than crazy. The fourth myth is that all serial killers are sociopaths. Although many serial killers tend to be sociopaths, who are lacking in concern for their victims, some do have a conscience but are able to neutralize or negate their feelings of remorse by rationalizing their behavior. Other myths that are challenged by research are that serial killers are inspired by pornography, that they are products of bad childhoods, that they can be identified in advance, that all serial killers are sexual sadists, that serial killers select victims who remind them of their mothers, and that serial killers want to get caught. 37 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Homicide; Murderers; Offender profiles; Serial murders
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