Exploring the Minds of Killers

What drew you to the talk you did?


The striking title of the video is what drew me to it. “Exploring the mind of a killer just seemed very intriguing and mysterious. I’ve always loved crime shows as well and understanding the mind of a killer is usually how the crime is solved.


Briefly summarize the talk


Jim Fallon, a neuroscientist who has researched various topics over his long career, on day decides to study the mind of killers, more specifically what is different in the brains of psychopathic killers. Examples of psychopathic killers are people such as Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer, and Charles Manson. Three things determine what damage the minds of killers: genes, biological/epigenetic damage, and the environment. All of these have to occur within a specific time frame to form a psychopathic killer. After studying the brain scan of psychopathic killers he discovered that nearly all of them had damage to their orbital cortex. He also discovered that they all had the gene MAOA, an X-linked gene, which is why males were more likely to be psychopathic killers. This gene causes the brain of fetuses to be soaked in serotonin making them insensitive to the neurotransmitter, which promotes calmness, later in life. The psychopaths he studied had these risk factors but a strong traumatic incident had to occur to trigger the psychopathic tendencies within these killers


What did you find most interesting about the talk?


I found that the presenter having a family history of psychopathic killers to be very interesting. This made his research very close to home and I believe allowed him to research this topic as passionately as he did. It was also cool how he took brain scans, EEGs, and analyzed the genetics of his family members to determine how at risk they were for becoming psychopathic killers.


How trustworthy did you find the presenter and the information she or he presented?


I found the presenter to be very trustworthy. Jim Fallon has studied and researched various subjects of neuroscience for about 35 years and is a professor at the University of California.


My Own Research Idea


During the presentation Jim Fallon talked about a=how nearly all the killers were exposed to severe trauma at a young age and this played a huge role in their development into psychopathic killers. I would research which form of trauma had the highest risk for psychopathic killers.

Marcia’s Theory of Identity Development

James Marcia developed his theory of identity development by expanding Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. While Erikson’s theory covered development throughout a lifetime, Marcia’s theory focused mainly on adolescent development. Adolescents in Erikson’s theory go through a phase of identity crisis, but Marcia believes adolescents do not go through a phase of identity resolution nor identity crisis. Instead the two main things that lead to identity development are crisis, which is anything that causes a person to reevaluate their choices and values, and commitment to new values. Marcia theorizes that each crisis leads to new commitments and therefore identity development. His theory was structured into 4 different aspects of identity development. These aspects are not considered stages, such as the stages in Erikson’s theory, because the theory is not sequential. The statuses are:

Identity Diffusion: This is the status where commitment has not been made and no steps have been taken to make a commitment. At this status the adolescent is still does not have the ability to make choices.

Identity Foreclosure: At this status adolescents have committed to some values and maybe even goals for the future, but they have not yet had an identity crisis. Conforming to the values and expectations of others is common and not many things have been explored yet.

Identity Moratorium: At this status adolescents are experiencing a crisis. They are also heavily exploring various aspects of their life and may be ready to make choices of their own but not yet commit to a sense of identity.

Identity Achievement: At this status the adolescent has made a commitment to a sense of identity after going through a crisis.

The main idea of Marcia’s theory is that the choices and experiences an individual has experienced influence their identity.

I believe Marcia’s theory is more accurate than Erikson’s because it is non-sequential and each status does not apply to a certain point in life like Erikson’s stages. While Marcia focused mainly on adolescents, it can be applied later on as well most likely for things such as midlife crises. It may be difficult though to establish which status a person is at and even after achieving an identity another crisis may occur and new commitments may be made. So the main question I am asking is do we ever fully have a sense of our identity?

Out of the four identity statuses, currently I feel like I’m at stage of identity foreclosure. While I have committed to a few values and future goals, they are heavily influenced by what my parents want and to a lesser extent what my peers around me may want. I still have much to explore before I commit to a certain role and adhere to a specific set of values.

About Me

Hello fellow classmates and Dr. MacFarlane,

My name is Veer and I am currently a second semester freshman attending Austin College. Before coming up to Sherman to attend this fantastic institution, I lived in Mansfield, TX; a town about the size of Sherman an hour and half south of here. I am taking Gen Psych to complete a breadth requirement and to learn the inner workings of the human mind. When I think of the word “psychology” I associate it with analyzing and understanding human thought processes and behavior. Psychology allows us to understand what makes every human unique and what makes them unique. Of the many topics we will cover this semester the 3 topics that interest me the most are “Coping With Stress”, “Theories of Motivation”, and “Drugs, Alcohol, and the Brain”. The first two topics interest me because as a college student stress and lack of motivation is my biggest downfall and maybe after covering these topics I will be better able to handle these issues.   The topic of “Drugs, Alcohol, and the Brain” will better help me understand why certain drugs have certain effects on the mind. The 3 topics I’m least interested in are “Neurons”, “Obedience”, and “Cognitive Development”. I don’t know why I’m least interested in those topics but most likely because they seemed the most boring. One question I would like to be able to answer by the time the semester is over is: “Which learning technique is best for me to succeed?”