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Author(s) Harrison, Marissa A.
Bowers, Thomas G.
Year 2010
Title Autogenic massacre as a maladaptive response to status threat
Published in Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 6
Pages 916–932
DOI 10.1080/14789949.2010.506618
Abstract Autogenic massacres are killings of two or more individuals in a single spree, motivated by personal problems or psychopathology (Mullen, Behavioral Sciences and the Law 2004, 22(3), 311–323). No attempts known to us have been made to explain autogenic massacres from an evolutionary psychological perspective. We sought to determine whether these massacres were likely committed by males who experienced status threats, as throughout human evolution threats to status and barriers to ascent would have had profound reproductive consequences for males due to female selectivity (Buss & Schmitt, Psychological Review 1993, 100, 204–232). We gathered available information about occupational, economic, and relationship statuses of perpetrators of autogenic massacres and the triggers of such murders. As predicted, typical perpetrators were low- or mid-status males with relatively low educational attainment and a history of relationship problems, and the trigger in most cases was a status loss or threat. Our evidence suggests that autogenic murderous rampages, though clearly psychopathological, may be rooted in part in male genetic preprogramming to defend status.
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