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The Mind of a Murderer: Mental Health, Addiction Correspond to Two Types of Killers


Mind Murder Crime SceneMurders are a point of interest in all aspects of society; they inspire television channels, books, and heated discussions. They also provide interesting insight for the scientific and psychological communities, as it has long been thought that killers differ mentally and emotionally from general society. A new study conducted by Dr. Robert Hanlon from Northwestern University examined the differences in mental illness, substance abuse, and cognitive impairments between impulsive and premeditated killers (Associated Press).

In this study, Hanlon’s team examined 77 murderers incarcerated in Illinois and Missouri to examine the psychological and developmental differences between impulsive and predatory killers (Associated Press). A group of tests were administered to assess their psychological state, cognitive abilities, and personal histories. In all aspects studied, researchers found apparent differences between these two groups of killers.  For example, 61% of predatory killers had a history of either mood or psychotic disorders as compared to 34% of impulsive killers; while impulsive killers were more likely, at 59%, to have cognitive impairments than their predatory counterparts at 36% (Nauert). Almost all of the killers studied showed a history of substance abuse, or reported being intoxicated when the crime was committed – 93% of impulsive killers and 76% of premeditated killers (Nauert).

This information is important because it gives insight into two very different types of killers. As Dr. Hanlon observed, this study may help efforts to “increase our rates of prevention and also assist the courts…be more informed about the minds and mental abnormalities of the people who commit these violent crimes,” (Griffith). By understanding more of the cognitive impairments, mental illness, and substance abuse that run rampant in this dangerous population, science and healthcare professionals may be able to see red flags in individuals, and take preventative measures. Additionally, it is important to take these factors into consideration when people are being sentenced for their crimes, because mental illness and cognitive impairments are out of someone’s control. While it is imperative that a danger to society be removed from the streets, it is also important that they receive treatment for their mental illness or cognitive impairments – there is a reason that there are hospitals for the criminally mentally ill. While substance abuse may not play such a controversial role in sentencing, it is still important to take into consideration when determining how dangerous these people are as individuals, and for understanding why certain people take this violent turn.

The minds of killers have been the cause of public speculation for years. Television shows love to explore popular theories behind killing streaks or murder stories, and there are countless books, newspaper articles, and social interactions that revolve around reporting, discussing, and theorizing about these crimes. This study, although small, provides the beginning stages of definitive proof that killers’ minds not only differ from the general population, but from each other as well, and that mental illness, substance abuse, and cognitive impairments are among the important factors that contribute to their violent actions.



Works Cited:

Associated Press. “Murderers’ Minds Seem to Differ Depending on Type of Crime.” 12 July 2013. US News. Web. 31 July 2013.

Griffith, Sarah. “Inside the minds of murderers: Impulsive killers are ‘less intelligent’ than premeditated murderers.” 28 June 2013. Daily Mail. Web. 31 July 2013.

Nauert, Rick. “Do You Know the Differences Between these Two Types of Killers?” 28 June 2013. Psych Central. Web. 31 July 2013.

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Written by

A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs, Conditions and Disorders, Mental Illness, Research, Substance Abuse · Tags: Addiction, cognitive impairments, Dr. Robert Hanlon, homicide, impulsive killers, killers, mental health, mental illness, murder, murderer, Northwestern University, predatory killers, premeditated, substance abuse, violent crimes