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There are many questions surrounding the subject of murders. Are murders a product of our society and can they be held responsible for their actions. What is a social conscience? Are some murders justified? War? My point of view is that murders cannot blame society for their wrong doings and really have no one to blame but themselves. A social conscience is the ability to determine what is right and wrong when dealing with other people, or to know what behavior is acceptable pertaining to others. I believe it is possible for a murder to be justified. There are situations of war time, or even people in law enforcement, where it is your job to be able to use deadly force. I hope to answer these questions and more concerning this controversial topic.

Are murderers a product of our society and can they be held responsible for their actions? I'm going to answer this in two parts. Murders are not a product of our society. Our world may not always be kind or pure, but it gives no one the right to go out and kill others. People say that they were raised in a bad home or abused while a child, well, not all of the people that have been abused are out on the streets killing other. No one tells us it is O.K. to kill. There are a lot of things that anger others, but that doesn't mean they can pick up a gun or knife and kill.

Can they be held responsible for there actions? Of course they can and should be. There is no reason for them to be excluded from punishment. Some of these people may need help, look at Jeffrey Dahmer. This man was extremely sick, but he still needed to be held responsible for the horrible things that he had done.

What is a social conscience? A social conscience is what all of us are equipped with, that lets us know what behavior is acceptable. Obviously these people must have a conscience. If they didn't, they would never try to hide the things they have done or flee from a crime scene. We as humans know when we have done wrong. Most of us are aware of judicial system, if not the Ten Commandments. Movies and television may portray terrible people, but that is why it's called the "movies." We are told all through life what is right and wrong, good and bad, we all know the difference. We all make mistakes, but to take a life is more than a mistake.

Are some murders justified? Yes, I believe they are. There are instances of self defense or protecting the lives of others, where I believe murder is justified. When it comes to your life or theirs, the choice seems simple, your own life. I also believe that murder, in the form of capital punishment, is justified. If someone was willing to take another human beings life in cold blood, premeditated murder, that individual doesn't deserve to live. Capital punishment should only be carried out when there was no doubt the person committed the murder,, and it was premeditated; unlike instances of self defense. It seems that most people who kill don't have any reason not to. The penal system isn't allowed to lock the people up indefinitely and capital punishment (execution) isn't carried out very often.

War? This is a concept that I am somewhat familiar with, not hat I have been in battle, but I was is the military and activated for Desert Storm/Desert Shield. When your go in the Army everyone goes through basic training. We are all taught that same thing; How To Be A Soldier. You are given an M16 and told it was your "friend". Well for many people I know that became reality. Many reservist were called up to fight during the Gulf War and had to use their "friend." Most of them never thought they would have to use the M16, let alone, every be in a combat situation. This did become a reality. It seems to come down to kill or be killed. The United States become involved to help the Helpless. The "enemy" was fully aware of the power of the U.S., yet they took their chances, even with the possibility of death.

Murder and its relation to Psychology. There are many ways to look at murder, into the mind and methods of a "murderer." There are limitless choices to explain why or how these things could happen. These are some of the options and opinions available in explaining the "murderer."

Freud concluded "Hate ,as a relation to objects, is older than love." The aggressive instinct was entirely independent of anything sexual. Children would often repeat unpleasant events that occurred in their life, in order to take control of the events. The destructive instinct, also know as the death instinct, goal was to lead the living into an organic state. The death instinct, directed towards to external world, is what Freud considered aggression. This aggression provides the Ego satisfaction of vital needs and control over nature. Freud pictured civilization as a process in the service of Eros (god of love). Part of the process, that must be present, is the struggle between Eros and Death. Life consisted of this struggle. The death instinct is directed towards unwanted stimuli from the external world, as the domination of sexual objects, and lastly against individuals or circumstances, which frustrate the ego. It is the job of the Super-ego (conscience) to cont!

rol the desires, to place guilt to ones self.

Our unconscious interferes with our conscious emotions. Freud stated "with the neurotic, the secret is hidden form his own conscious, with the criminal it is hidden only from you." My feeling on Freud's theories is that we all have the death instinct, but our own conscience allows us to deal with it. Some people have a greater need to hurt and their conscience just isn't enough to control their immoral actions. We as a society are aggressive by nature. We all long to overcome others. It all comes down to how we accomplish our goals. How we hold morals and conform as a society to norms.

Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and /or mental processes. Who better to examine for mental processes than murders. Many want to talk to and analyze the things they say, while others go to the extreme of actually analyzing the brain. The brain seems the logical place to start. Certain portions of the brain would most affect the processes surrounding the choices we make. These are a few areas that may affect those processes. Areas to look at within the Limbic system are the amygdala and the septal area. The amygdala controls rage and aggression. The septal area reduces intensity of emotional responses. The adrenal glands, located in the Endocrine system, could also be an area of concern. The adrenaline helps with stress. If someone's glands do not function properly, maybe they are unable to control the things they do. The hypothalamus is also involved with aggressive behavior. Damage to the frontal lobe my also affect or alter personality and emotions!

. There seems to be no one answer to the question of how or why these things affect our behavior.

Conditioning would seem to play a big role in the affects on someone's behavior. When looking at the reasons that conditioning may affect a person to murder we can use both classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning would involve the learning of inappropriate behavior. An Example would be beating someone up paired with praise form your friends. When receiving praise, you feel good. In turn, receiving the praise and feeling good would condition the person to like beating someone up. This would be the acquisition of a response through conditioning. Extinction would seem not to happen as easily as desired. Although spontaneous recovery, of bad habits seems to happen effortlessly. Generalization appears to be common, when it comes picking bad habits back up. Operant Conditioning seems another logical reason for criminal behavior to continue. Operant conditioning is the changed rate of response based on consequences that result. If someone commits a crim!

e and is not punished or is glorified by their peers, it would increase the frequency of the activity. Reinforcers of this conditioning, would be anything that increase the activity; such as a criminal making more money, or a gang member receiving a higher status. Acquisition increases the rate of behavior. Extinction would by the decrease as the reinforces are withheld. Spontaneous recovery would be the same as classical conditioning, when the behavior starts again after a period of rest. A theory that may apply would be the Learned Helplessness, where the subject doesn't attempt to escape, because they feel it is impossible. Examples of this would again be a gang member or a criminal where they feel they have no where else to turn, so they continue in this deviant behavior.

Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory could apply to the murderer. The learning through observation could occur when the "murderer" sees someone else murder or could start as simple as witnessing another person hurting another. Bandura was a Behaviorist and they believed that behavior is observable and we learn form observing through rewards and punishments. It would seem in this case that behavior is determined by weighing out good and bad.

There is also Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development. Piaget's theory was the we grow mentally through assimilation and accommodation. With assimilation the behavior is applied to new situations. Accommodation modifies the behavior to fit new demands.

Erik Erikson's Theory of Psycho Social Development seems to hold some thoughts on why someone would pick good over bad. The theory is that each stage needs to be addressed before going on to another. If the person cannot resolve these conflicts it would seem they would have some dysfunctional thinking or behavior patterns. The eight stages are:

1. Trust vs. Mistrust (0-1 1/2)

2. Autonomy vs. Self Doubt (1 1/2-3)

3. Initiative vs. Guilt (3-6)

4. Competence vs. Inferiority (6- puberty)

5. Identity vs. Role Confusion (adolescence)

6. Intimacy vs. Isolation (early adult)

7. Generativity vs. Stagnation (middle adult)

8. Ego Integrity vs. Despair (older adult)

Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development fits in very well with the topic of murderers . It would appear obvious that a murderer must not have any morals. There are three stages of development; Preconventional, Conventional, and Post conventional. Pre conventional involves right and wrong being based on personal outcome. Conventional deals with acting to get the approval of others or society. Post conventional concerns the internal sense of right and wrong.

Cognitive and Social Development in adolescence; James Marcia's Identity Formation theory holds some thoughts that apply to the subject at hand: Identity diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium, identity achieved. Identity diffusion concerns lack of commitment. There is no conflict because they don't question identity. Foreclosure is simply accepting attitudes and rules set done by parents and family. A criminal either doesn't accept or doesn't have anyone setting the rules. Experimenting, or questioning the goals and values of the family, would be moratorium. Identity achieved integrates alternatives and identity comes out of the struggle. In the case of a criminal or "murderer" that isn't always a good productive identity. Parenting styles can also affect the outcome of a persons behavior. A permissive style for example where the child is allowed to do what ever they want and takes no responsibility, would be the down fall and allow the child to carry on with deviant b!


Motivation to commit murder, not everyone had the same motivation, or is aroused by the same things. Motivation gets us going to do things or behave in certain ways. Maslow' s Hierarchy of Needs deals with different levels that we reach during our lives. They are Physiological, Safety and Security, Social (love and belonging), Self Esteem, and Self Actualization. This hierarchy has steps you must go up the reach another. maybe some of these people have no desire to reach the next levels or they have such a bazaar structure in their lives, that their needs are filled by this derogatory behavior.

Cognitive Dissonance is a state of tension that exists when we hold inconsistent cognitions. Maybe this is why murderers react the way they do. There are is such a state of tension all the time and react in an equally tense way.

McClelland has a need scale which would seem to apply. The Need for Power, this need would be that the person needs to control events of persons. maybe they don't understand that love and compassion are appropriate ways to have some control. They only wish to react in forceful, hurting manners.

Emotions could be sighs to a murderers behavior. Their emotions could possibly be out of control. There are some different theories that relate to emotion, but there is one that kind of combines them all and sums them up. The Contemporary Model of Emotion:

Stimulus **cognative appraisal **arousal, response, emotional

expression and emotional feeling

The murderer may not be able to cope with emotion. They many have a defense mechanism to control emotion, it would seem inappropriate, but in the case of a murderer, it would be the death of another.

A constant feeling of Frustration would be another of a murderers afflictions. A good example of frustration would be a postal worker going and killing his boss, or a man who beats his wife because he had a bad day at work. These people are unable to properly deal with stress. Stress most obviously has become a strain to these people. The reactions most taken by a murderer would be that of displaced aggression; taking out their problems on someone else, Also the reaction of persistence; they may have a hatred towards someone and their hatred finally builds the point where they want to eliminate this person.

A murderer is not the type of person that is able to deal with the stress and strains of life. They aren't able to adapt to situations put before them. They would seem to hold unpure or terrible cognitions in the unconscious. The explanations are limitless as to why these things continue to happen. Many psychologists have varying opinions in the thought processes, cognitions, motivation, emotion, the brain, frustration, stress, and so on. Basically no one really knows why we do what we do, but many are willing to put in their "2-cent."


Sources: "FREUD" by Anthony Storr

"MURDER and MADNESS" by David Abrahamsen

All other information from Psychology notes

Source: Essay UK -

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