Normalcy in Behavioral Characteristics of the Sadistic Serial Killer

  • Jack Levin
  • James Alan Fox

Abstract

Sadistic serial killers have been widely diagnosed as sociopaths who are lacking in empathy and inordinately concerned with impression management. We propose instead that many of the behavioral characteristics thought to be distinctive of these serial murderers are actually shared widely with millions of people who never kill anyone. By focusing so much on sociopathic characteristics, researchers may have downplayed the importance of the existential processes—compartmentalization and dehumanization—that permit serial killers to rape, torture, and murder with moral impunity. Moreover, by uncritically accepting the sociopathic designation, researchers may have ignored the interaction between sadism and sociopathy that causes empathy to be heightened rather than diminished.

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Copyright information

© Humana Press 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Levin
  • James Alan Fox

There are no affiliations available

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