We talked about the most common motivations behind the murders.
Possibly, the act of taking the life of another human being is one of the most mediated and rejected in our society, and one of the most difficult to understand. In this article we are going to try to answer what internal psychological processes guide the commission of a murder, what motivations “move” serial killers and why such homicidal behaviors are maintained ; although it must be taken into account that in each case these motivations will vary to a greater or lesser degree.
The concept of homicidal motivation
Homicidal motivation is a multidimensional construct, this means that there are several classic concepts to take into account linked to the motivation of serial killers, such as: modeling (learning or improving behavior by imitation), rehearsal techniques and error (they perfect their modus operandi), vicarious learning (see a behavior to learn from it), the self-reinforcement and conditioning of the behavior and the murderer’s own justifications that perpetuate the commission of these murders.
Thus, murderers can learn and model their behavior. In fact, one of the “problems” that exist in prisons is that many convicted prisoners come to learn to commit murders more precisely thanks to the explanations of other criminals.
The 3 types of motivation in homicides
Although the basic motivational processes are similar to those of other non-homicidal people, murderers tend to have specific goals, different attributions and, above all, erroneous or biased cognitions. Let’s say that the cognitive processes associated with some acts are re-evaluated by the same distorted cognitive processes.
Murderers in general, and especially serial killers (a concept introduced by Robert K. Ressler in the 1970s), often do what meets their needs, and use violence as a means to achieve their ends. This statement is framed within the basic motivational processes of any person, but instead of using violence as a method of action, non-homicidal people use other strategies.
The focus to know the criminal motivation in homicides is on the type of violence used. The mode and the means used will provide us with crucial clues about their motivation. This is why the analysis of the crime scene is so extremely important, as it reflects the mood of the aggressor and his feelings, which can give us clues to know why he has committed that crime.
Below we will describe the three basic types of homicidal motivation. Obviously, they are not mutually exclusive, but in some aggressors one or the other may be more intense.
1. Revenge and justification
The main motivation of these murderers is to take revenge in a more or less specific way on those who they believe have contributed to their misfortunes.
These murderers justify their acts as lawful and just; For them, murder is a natural consequence of the mistreatment or unjustified rejection they have suffered. They feel that they should punish a profile of people for something they have done or for what they represent (for example, an aggressor who as a young man has been rejected on several occasions by women, years later will take revenge for these acts by murdering several women who have nothing to do with the matter, but who look like those who initially rejected him).
2. Control and power
If there is something that is totally reinforcing for a murderer it is the feeling of power, even if it is fleeting. They have absolute control and power over the victim, over his life or death. The feeling of being “omnipotent” is common, that is, being like a kind of God. It is an experience that can become totally addictive for the aggressor, becoming a very powerful source of personal satisfaction. It can fill the emptiness they feel in other spheres of their life, such as boredom, going unnoticed, being “one more” …
This sense of control-power reinforces and maintains aggressive behaviors, so it is very likely that if the murderer moves by this type of motivation, he will return to action.
Faced with a general state of discomfort or unrelieved excitement, an attempt is made to find a behavior or activity that frees them from that tension. They present a state of anxiety, nervousness and restlessness that on many occasions is manifested in alcoholism or antisocial behavior, and other times it ends in a homicidal act.
The cathartic moment of expression of feelings and anger is the murder itself, and an intense feeling of euphoria and ecstasy is common. After the murderous act there is a feeling of intense and pleasant calm, of relief. However, this feeling of relief does not last forever, and the most common is the appearance after a time of new feelings of restlessness, anxiety, tension, accumulated anger … They have learned that to “alleviate” these sensations an infallible way is the commission of a murder.
Final Reflection on Murder Motivation
We must make some nuances about the criminal motivation in homicides: the motivation of a murderer is implicit, individual and not justified. We will find as many motivations as there are murderers: it is difficult to identify all the motivations of the murderers within the three types mentioned above, although this classification can be of initial help in order to understand their motivations.
In this sense, the motivations for committing a murder have always been very heterogeneous: there are ideological, religious motivations (proof of this is the terrorism of ISIS), passionate, selfish, economic motivations, revenge, and so on. Obviously, the best way to find out the motivations of serial killers is to speak directly to them, conduct a thorough interview by a trained professional, and draw conclusions. Some very famous interviews in this area are the one with Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy.
The most important thing, more than being able to frame the murderer in one type of motivation or another within the classification, is to be able to predict what is important to him and why he does it, to be able to understand what his personal criminal motivation is, what is his history. In this way, we can more safely predict their behavior, analyze their behaviors in greater detail and be able to stop them.