Title

Personality and Serial Killers in Popular Culture

Presenter Information

Kristin KennedyFollow

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Psychology

Minor

Social Welfare

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Sean Rife

Presentation Format

Poster Presentation

Abstract/Description

Serial murders are a subject of interest for many Americans, and a large section of consumer culture is devoted to serial killers. For example, one of the most popular serial podcasts is devoted to true crime (Podtrac, Inc., 2019), and recent series on the streaming service Netflix focusing on serial murderers have been the focus of much discussion. We do not fully understand why society finds serial killers interesting. Dietrich and Hall (2010) propose that people are drawn to serial killers for multiple reasons: (1) an innate desire to explain outlandish acts so that society can learn to avoid them and/or remove them from society; (2) humans naturally seek explanations for everything, and serial murderers are no exception; (3) serial killers are deviant and mysterious, so we want to solve the mystery of their motivations; (4) people are horrified by mass killings and the action takes a grip on our imagination; (5) the study of serial killers allows for both positive and negative emotions to be experienced at the same time in a safe point of reference; and (6) the study of serial killers allow us to experience a vicarious brush with death. The present study examines the relationship between the interest in serial killers and sensation seeking, empathy, personality type, depression, and gender differences. These initial findings will help us to understand the type of person who finds serial murders interesting and will provide insight into possible motivations for the consumption of products and media related to serial killers.

Keywords: serial killers, interest, personality, depression, sensation seeking, gender differences, empathy

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Personality and Serial Killers in Popular Culture

Serial murders are a subject of interest for many Americans, and a large section of consumer culture is devoted to serial killers. For example, one of the most popular serial podcasts is devoted to true crime (Podtrac, Inc., 2019), and recent series on the streaming service Netflix focusing on serial murderers have been the focus of much discussion. We do not fully understand why society finds serial killers interesting. Dietrich and Hall (2010) propose that people are drawn to serial killers for multiple reasons: (1) an innate desire to explain outlandish acts so that society can learn to avoid them and/or remove them from society; (2) humans naturally seek explanations for everything, and serial murderers are no exception; (3) serial killers are deviant and mysterious, so we want to solve the mystery of their motivations; (4) people are horrified by mass killings and the action takes a grip on our imagination; (5) the study of serial killers allows for both positive and negative emotions to be experienced at the same time in a safe point of reference; and (6) the study of serial killers allow us to experience a vicarious brush with death. The present study examines the relationship between the interest in serial killers and sensation seeking, empathy, personality type, depression, and gender differences. These initial findings will help us to understand the type of person who finds serial murders interesting and will provide insight into possible motivations for the consumption of products and media related to serial killers.

Keywords: serial killers, interest, personality, depression, sensation seeking, gender differences, empathy