What Makes a Murderer: Digging Deep into the Mind

The mind of a killer is a source of endless fascination for many people. There is something about the thought processes and motivations of those who take the lives of others that is both terrifying and intriguing, causing us to wonder what makes a murderer.

In this article, we will delve into the various factors that can contribute to someone committing murder, from psychological, social, and biological influences to life experiences and personality traits. Understanding these factors can help shed light on one of humanity’s darkest aspects and perhaps even help prevent future tragedies.

The Psychology of Murder

One of the most significant contributors to violence, including murder, is mental illness. According to estimates, as many as 40% of people who commit murders have a diagnosable mental illness, with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia being some of the most common.

Another factor that can play a role is the concept of the “dark triad” of personality traits, which includes narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. People who possess these traits tend to lack empathy, manipulate others for their gain, and exhibit a sense of entitlement, making them more likely to commit violent acts.

The Role of Trauma in Murder

Another significant factor that plays a role in homicide is exposure to trauma, especially in childhood. A history of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence can increase the likelihood of someone engaging in violent behavior later in life. This is due to the developmental and psychological impact that trauma can have on a person’s sense of identity and ability to regulate their emotions and impulses.

Those who grow up in environments where they experience chronic stressors or are subject to extreme poverty or racism may also be at increased risk of engaging in violent behavior as a way to cope or assert control over their lives.

Biological Factors Involved in Murder

Research has also shown that there may be genetic and biological factors that contribute to potential criminal behavior. For example, studies have linked low activity in areas of the brain responsible for empathy and emotional regulation to an increased risk of aggression and violence. Genetic variations can also influence these traits, making some people more genetically susceptible to violent behavior.

Another factor that can contribute is substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can lower inhibitions, impair judgment, and increase aggression, making it more likely that someone will commit violent acts.

Social Influences on Murder

While individual factors like mental illness, trauma, and biology may all contribute to someone becoming a murderer, social influences are also crucial. Culture, upbringing, and social structures all play significant roles in shaping someone’s behavior and worldview, making them more or less likely to commit violent acts.

Gender and Murder

Gender is also a significant factor in homicide rates, with men more likely to be both the perpetrators and victims of violent crime. Socialization processes that teach men to be dominant, aggressive, and unemotional can contribute to this phenomenon. Additionally, societal norms that reinforce toxic masculinity, such as the idea that men should be tough and unfeeling, can make it difficult for men to seek help when experiencing mental health problems or coping with trauma, increasing their risk of violence.

Cultural and Historical Influences

The cultural and historical context in which someone lives can also contribute to their likelihood of committing acts of violence. For example, research has shown that societies with high levels of income inequality tend to have higher rates of homicide than those with more even distribution of wealth. Additionally, societies with a history of colonization or slavery may have lasting trauma and social dysfunction that contribute to higher levels of violence.

Preventing Murder

Understanding the many complex factors that can contribute to someone becoming a murderer is crucial for preventing future tragedies. This requires both individual and societal interventions, including social policies that address poverty, racism, and other societal inequalities that can lead to trauma and violent behavior. Additionally, improving access to mental healthcare and destigmatizing mental illness is essential for identifying and treating those who may be at risk of violent behavior.

Early Intervention and Support

Early intervention and support for those who have experienced trauma or have mental health problems are also crucial. This can include providing support for families and caregivers, promoting healthy relationships and communication techniques, and training in coping skills to regulate emotions and reduce impulsivity.

Creating a Culture of Nonviolence

Finally, creating a culture of nonviolence is essential for preventing future murders. This requires addressing toxic masculinities, promoting healthy relationships and communication, promoting conflict resolution skills, and reducing access to firearms and other weapons.


The factors that contribute to someone becoming a murderer are complex and multifaceted, including psychological, social, and biological influences, as well as life experiences and personality traits. Understanding these factors is essential for preventing future tragedies and promoting a more just and peaceful society.

Most Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: What mental illness is most commonly associated with murder?
  • A: Depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are the most commonly associated mental illnesses with murder.
  • Q: Are men more likely to be murderers than women?
  • A: Yes, men are both more likely to be perpetrators and victims of violent crime.
  • Q: Can early intervention and treatment prevent someone from becoming a murderer?
  • A: Yes, early intervention and support for mental health problems and trauma can help prevent someone from engaging in violent behavior later in life.


  • Abramson, L. Y., Alloy, L. B., & Metalsky, G. I. (1989). The Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression (CVD) Hypothesis: A Response to Seligman’s Challenge. Relapse Prevention, pp. 77-126.
  • Bushman, B. J., & Anderson, C. A. (2001). Is it time to pull the plug on the hostile versus instrumental aggression dichotomy? Psychological Review, 108(1), pp. 273-279.
  • Galtung, J., & Anker, T. (1994). Violence, peace, and peace research. Journal of Peace Research, 31(2), pp. 135-154.
  • Harcourt, B. E. (2011). Against prediction: Profiling, policing, and punishing in an actuarial age. University of Chicago Press.
  • Lewis, C., & Dufour, R. (2004). The power of collaboration: Enhancing learning, bonding, and accountability. Corwin Press.
  • Makary, M. A., & Daniel, M. (2016). Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US. The BMJ, 353.
  • Turchik, J. A., & Garske, J. P. (2009). Measurement of the sense of belonging in a clinical sample: Psychometric Properties and factor structure of the SOB.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *