Presenter Information

Kelli Terrell, University of Wyoming

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Narina Nunez

Description

There have been 78 mass shootings in the United States since 1978, killing a total of 547 people and injuring an additional 476 individuals; this number is rapidly growing and has drawn widespread media coverage (Bjelopera, 2013). As mass shootings have increased, so has media coverage of the shootings, particularly honing in on the shooter(s) themselves, rather than the victims, creating both contagion and copycat effects (Johnston & Joy, 2016) (Mills, 2016). Each new mass killing sparks conversation and widespread concern centered on the individual’s motivation which drives to prevent future shootings (Schildkraut & Elsass, 2016). One assumption by the public and media is that the perpetrator has a mental illness that led to the shooting (Knoll & Annas, 2016). The profile of individuals who are committing mass murders is worthy of researching, as it could provide insights to the question of background, external motives, and prevention (Johnston & Joy, 2016). It was hypothesized society is profiling mass murderers in a specific way contradicting the reality of who the offenders are. Participants were randomly assigned to a mass killing or serial killing condition with a death toll of nine. Participants were asked to profile the killer based on the previously read scenario by first listing assumed profile characteristics then being asked a battery of questions spanning from demographic information to relationship status, education level, and mental health status.

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Lay Profiles of Mass and Serial Killers

There have been 78 mass shootings in the United States since 1978, killing a total of 547 people and injuring an additional 476 individuals; this number is rapidly growing and has drawn widespread media coverage (Bjelopera, 2013). As mass shootings have increased, so has media coverage of the shootings, particularly honing in on the shooter(s) themselves, rather than the victims, creating both contagion and copycat effects (Johnston & Joy, 2016) (Mills, 2016). Each new mass killing sparks conversation and widespread concern centered on the individual’s motivation which drives to prevent future shootings (Schildkraut & Elsass, 2016). One assumption by the public and media is that the perpetrator has a mental illness that led to the shooting (Knoll & Annas, 2016). The profile of individuals who are committing mass murders is worthy of researching, as it could provide insights to the question of background, external motives, and prevention (Johnston & Joy, 2016). It was hypothesized society is profiling mass murderers in a specific way contradicting the reality of who the offenders are. Participants were randomly assigned to a mass killing or serial killing condition with a death toll of nine. Participants were asked to profile the killer based on the previously read scenario by first listing assumed profile characteristics then being asked a battery of questions spanning from demographic information to relationship status, education level, and mental health status.