Understanding the Brain of a Serial KillerBased on the theor…

Understanding the Brain of a Serial Killer Based on the theories discussed in this week’s lecture material, consider the Yates and Gacy cases and answer the following questions: Most of the theories that have been created to explain violent human behavior center around socialization. Each one of the social theories explains a different social aspect of an offender’s behavior. Some important social theories are: Purchase the answer to view it Purchase the answer to view it

Understanding the Brain of a Serial Killer


The phenomenon of serial killers has captivated the public’s imagination for decades. These individuals, who commit multiple murders over an extended period of time, often display disturbing levels of violence and sadism. One common question that arises is: what drives these individuals to commit such heinous acts? Many theories have been proposed in an attempt to explain the motivations and behaviors of serial killers. This paper will focus on the cases of Andrea Yates and John Wayne Gacy and explore how these theories can provide insights into the understanding of the brain of a serial killer.

Social Theories of Violent Behavior

Most theories that attempt to explain violent human behavior revolve around socialization. These theories argue that individuals engage in criminal activities as a result of their social surroundings and experiences. Several important social theories can shed light on the behavior of serial killers.

First, the social learning theory posits that individuals learn behavior through observation and imitation of others. According to this theory, serial killers may have been exposed to violent or criminal behavior during their upbringing, either through direct observation or through media influences. This exposure may have shaped their attitudes and beliefs, leading them to engage in violent acts themselves.

Second, the strain theory suggests that individuals turn to crime when they experience strain or frustration in achieving socially approved goals, such as financial success or social recognition. Serial killers may have experienced significant personal or societal pressures that led them to commit acts of violence as a means of coping with their frustrations.

Additionally, the social control theory argues that individuals who lack strong bonds to conventional social institutions, such as family or school, are more likely to engage in criminal behavior. Serial killers may have had dysfunctional or absent family structures, which contributed to their detachment from social norms and facilitated their engagement in violent acts.

The Case of Andrea Yates

Andrea Yates, a woman from Texas, gained notoriety for drowning her five children in a bathtub in 2001. The case of Yates provides an opportunity to analyze the applicability of social theories to understand the behavior of a female serial killer.

In Yates’ case, the social learning theory could be applied to explain her violent actions. She had a history of mental illness and had been exposed to severe religious indoctrination from her father. This exposure to religious extremism may have influenced her beliefs and contributed to her distorted perception of reality, leading her to believe that killing her children was an act of love and salvation.

Furthermore, the strain theory can also shed light on Yates’ actions. She experienced multiple pregnancies and struggled with postpartum psychosis, which contributed to her feelings of strain and frustration. Her inability to fulfill societal expectations of being a nurturing mother, coupled with the difficulties associated with her mental illness, may have driven her to commit such a horrific act as a way to escape her overwhelming situation.

Finally, the social control theory can be relevant in understanding Yates. She had a history of psychiatric treatment and had been briefly hospitalized for mental health issues. This suggests a lack of strong bonds to conventional social institutions, such as family or community support networks, which may have contributed to her detachment from social norms and her descent into violent behavior.

The Case of John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy, known as the “Killer Clown,” was a notorious American serial killer who preyed on young boys. Gacy’s case offers insights into the application of social theories in understanding the behavior of male serial killers.

Applying the social learning theory to Gacy’s case, it becomes apparent that his early exposure to violence and abuse played a significant role in shaping his violent tendencies. Gacy’s father was physically abusive, while his mother was emotionally neglectful. These experiences may have influenced his perception of violence as a means of exerting power and control over others.

Additionally, the strain theory can explain Gacy’s criminal behavior. He faced societal pressures to conform to traditional gender roles, which conflicted with his own sexual orientation. The strain caused by this incongruity may have led Gacy to the gruesome acts he committed, as a way of expressing his frustration and coping with his internal turmoil.

Finally, the social control theory can be relevant in Gacy’s case as well. He had a troubled childhood and a strained relationship with his family. This lack of stable and supportive social bonds likely contributed to his detachment from conventional norms and facilitated his ability to engage in violent acts undetected.