Social Rejection And Mass Murder Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: People, Violence, Education, Students, Psychology, Health, Attack, Sociology

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2020/12/21


There are many assertions that violence is linked to mental illness and with many recent mass murders researchers find there selves’ pondering if this is true and these horrible tragedies could be prevented. Many advocates for people who are considered mentally ill find themselves facing a conundrum in these situations as in the past most people with serious mental illness are considered to be more harmful to themselves than to people in the society. However it is apparent that when a person commits something of this magnitude that there acts were not done through any sane or what is considered normal way of thinking and decision making. The issue for these advocates is that they are faced with a query about who is violent and should be deemed unsafe for society and how to decide this without making people afraid of every person who is suffering from mental illnesses. The suggestion is that studies are needed and useful data about the issue need to be compiled to determine what mental illnesses tend to show violent and aggressive tendencies that could end up being dangerous for the rest of the people in society. For instance a 2009 study shows that people suffering from schizophrenia are two time more likely to have violent tendencies than people who do not have this mental illness (Szalivitz, 2012).. This becomes an even bigger risk if a person with this disorder is struggling with issues like substance abuse. These people are nine times more likely to commit violent acts than people who do not have schizophrenia so the increase in likelihood shows a detrimental risk to the rest of society. The study also revealed that people who were suffering from both substance abuse and schizophrenia show tendencies toward homicide increasing their level of threat from violent tendencies to murderous tendencies. Although people with schizophrenia are more likely to commit homicide than a person that is not suffering from the mental illness studies have also determined that most people suffering from this disease never become violent throughout their entire life. The people that are more likely to become violent are those who also suffer or have suffered from what is known as psychosis. The important issue at hand is if there are any contributing factors to mass murder. In many recent cases there has been a consideration that social rejection may be an attributing factor in many of the cases that have been highlighted by the media. With psychologists suggesting that the mental illnesses are not solely to blame based on their research perhaps it is a combination of both social rejection and mental illness that are to blame (Szalivitz, 2012). This paper will attempt to determine if social rejection can be linked to mass murder.

Literature Review

A person who kills people in public during the daytime with a plan of attack is known as the pseudo-commando. This term was coined in the year 1986 by a man named Dietz (Knoll, 2010). This person is likely to come with many weapons like guns and knives. Although he is prepared for the attack he has not planned a way to escape and is destined to be killed in the process of the attack. Research about this personality type has turned up evidence suggesting that social rejection can be a contributing factor in these types of attacks. The attacker is said to be motivated by the rejection that he feels from other people. The attacker feels that this revenge is paying the people back that mistreated him/her. There have been instances were messages were arranged to be discovered after the attack which gives psychologist one of the few opportunities to see what motivated the person to commit violent and unexpected attacks on so many people, especially since the attacker usually dies in the incident and is not able to be assessed afterwards (Knoll, 2010).
An example of a recent attack that was in the form of a pseudo-commando could be the mass shooting at Virginia tech in April of 2007 (Flynn & Heitzman, 2008). This was just one of many shooting reported at schools in recent years that ended in a devastating outcome. Seung-Hui Cho was an English major at the university who immigrated to America with his family. Video tapes he left behind told a story of a boy who had a lot of social and academic issues in school. As a result Cho isolated himself from others and was diagnosed with being a mute and social anxiety disorder. He never had a relationship with any person outside of his family. No friend’s peers or social life whatsoever. When Cho was in eighth grade his behavior should have been an alert as he drew pictures and expressed intentions of repeating what happened at columbine which was a massive and devastating shooting in the media at another school at the time. When he attended Virginia tech he continued to be socially isolated only once reaching out to a girl through a poem written in Romeo and Juliet. She perceived him as awkward and weird and in the end police were contacted. Later in video tapes he recorded before his attacks he spoke of the treatment he received from the other students. His words described the social rejection and the immense hatred he had built inside because of this. Cho had ordered many weapons for his attacks during this time and he had practiced his shooting before the attack. On April 16 Cho began his spree starting off by killing two students. He then left the campus and mailed his prepared videos before returning to finish what he had planned. When he was finished he had shot 47 students and teachers at Virginia tech of which 30 were fatal before he turned his weapon on himself and in front of the witnesses took his own life (Flynn & Heitzman, 2008).
There has been many more school shootings heating up the debate about what is the reasoning behind these young peoples need to end so many lives. One in 2006 started with a 19 year old who returned to a highs cool he had previously attended to seek revenge on former classmates. Alvaro Castillo had not planned his shooting out as meticulously as Cho did but he did fire eight shots at students which wounded people before police arrived and he turned himself in. It was discovered later that this was not his only task that day; earlier at his home he had taken the life of his own father. Another case of deadly shooting occurred after this involving an 18 year old who sent a threatening message over the internet before driving to a school in Germany and executing his plan by shooting at and injuring 37 people before he killed himself. Although the number of killings reported at schools in the united states is down since the nineties there is a new concern that the method of these murderers are becoming more complex. There is more planning that goes into the murders for instance weapons gathering and even wearing a certain type of clothing. Because of these new trends psychologists have begun to unravel what causes these young people to act on these fantasies and warning signs that can be spotted for prevention. In many cases there are warning signs whether it be something said to a friend or over social media that can prevent tragedies like these if proper monitoring is done on young people who are troubled (Robertz, 2007).


Research has become imminent as there has been a rise in school shootings and public attacks across the United States and even in Europe. Recent studies have indicated that there is some connection between bullying and peer rejection to mass violence (Ellis, 2014). One study suggests that suicide with hostile intent is to blame for these shootings and if it is identified can be used to prevent such devastating massacres. One contributing factor that is able to be identified is if a person is able to outwardly express there emotion of rage toward the people they feel are responsible for what they are going through. This type of suicide following a revenge plot is not new it is only remembering as it is cloaked in ancient history. Now it is said to have reemerged because of cultures rules and societies actions. The attacker is said to be seeking his/her own means of justice for things that the attacker feels other people have done to wrong him/her. Surveys conducted by the secret service in attempt to consider the safety of schools found that from the years 1992 to 1999 there were more multiple student homicide/suicides and more recently these numbers have switched resulting in single student homicide related suicides. The evidence from studies also indicated that people who are likely to commit these acts of violence are more likely to be socially rejected and bullied. These attackers seem to be highly motivated not often acting impulsively rather they plan out and target there victims. Another serious issue is that many recent attackers are copying another tragedy with the hopes of having a similar impact (Preti, 2008). Another study suggests that violence of this type which they coin “rampage violence” is extremely unpredictable and dangerous. These researchers also indicate a need for studying and assessing the violence in order to find a way to prevent these tragic outcomes. The researchers highlight not only school shootings but other public attacks as evidence that this threat needs to be addressed immediately (Harris & Harris, 2015).
Many theories come up for suggested indicators on what motivates a person to commit mass murder. The strain theory is one suggestion that indicates there are different stages that a person undergoes before committing a crime known as cumulative strain (Levin, 2015). First the go through chronic strain which happens over time for instance there school years and experiencing social rejection. Second they go through what is called uncontrolled strain which is directly attributed to social rejection because it is caused by a lack of support in their social structure. After this acute strain would come into play, during this phase the attacker would fantasize and plan there course of action against the society they feel has failed them. After these phases if there is no intervention this is where we see attacks (States, 2015).
In 2000 one doctor Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin published the results of a research study he had done on brain scans (Bromberg, Corin & all, 2015). His goal was to compare the brain scans of people who were considered normal with scans from people who were prone to violent tendencies and homicides. His results showed that there was a different area displaying activity in the scans of the convicted killer’s brains than there was in people who were considered normal. If this study is right than the indication of people being murderers because of social influence would be invalid, because the brain activity suggests that the killers are genetically different. The research is an indication that killers are born that way. If it is in fact valid there could be a connection from societal pressure that triggers the response that killers have however the results of this study were to determine if there can be preventative methods applied early if people are diagnosed based on their brain scan at an early age. In this situation it would be a case of nature vs. nurture (Bromberg, Corin & all, 2015).
A more recent and public mass shooting highlights killer James Holmes who walked into a packed theatre for a batman movie dressed as batman and unleashed his fury on a crowd of people who did not even know him. He was equipped with weapons and dressed in protective gear suggesting that this attack was planned. When it was all over he was responsible for killing 12 people. The American psychological association looks at this killing and ones like Cho’s to attempt to find a link. They explain that mass killers are harder to understand as each one follows different patterns and has different reasons for their actions. They explain it like a recipe saying that some of the ingredients match each other however some are different altering the recipe for disaster. In some instance revenge is targeted at a certain person in others it is at the public in general, which is where we see shootings like the attack at the theatre. Sometimes killers in these mass murders were isolated, in other instances a killer will describe a life where he/she had many friends so this is not always a determining factor meaning that not every mass shooting is attributed to social isolation and rejection. In many cases psychologist say that the killer is actually struggling with the ability to form a strong connection and relationship with the people they consider their friends. In all cases however a common thread is revenge. Psychologist can agree on one thing that is there needs to be more research to determine a way to prevent these tragedies in the future.


The tragic results of one mass shooting can devastate a community. When the shootings become a trend the implications begin to be that this is an epidemic in need of prevention. To prevent these types of shootings in schools and public it is important for researchers to find the factors that can add up to this occurrence. Some specialist point at mental health disorders having a huge role in the violence however mental health experts do not completely agree and fear these indications will lead to a stigma. They are worried people will be afraid of people that suffer from mental health issues and report that in many cases individuals suffering from these disorders can go through their entire life without acting violently toward others. Other researchers emphasize that there is a correlation between social rejection and bullying that lead up to plots for revenge that unfold in devastating events like the school shootings that have been in the media recently. In the end results suggest that a combination between mental illness, predispositions from birth and social rejection build up to create a person that is capable of committing mass murder and in some unfortunate circumstances this is exactly what has happened. With all of the current research adding up to combining factors one thing that has been determined is that there needs to be a plan for prevention. To determine methods that are necessary to prevent these mass killings psychologists determined that there needs to be a substantial amount of further research to help them understand the minds and the actions of the attacker and the determining points that lead to an attack.


Bromberg, W., Corin, L., & all, e. (2015). Serial Killers: Nature vs. Nurture. American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Retrieved 9 March 2015, from
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Robertz, F. (2007). Deadly Dreams. Scientific American Mind, 18(4), 52-59. doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0807-52
States, H. (2015). Hegemonic Masculinity and Mass Murderers in the United States. Retrieved 9 March 2015, from
Szalivitz, M. (2012). after Aurora, Questions about mass murder and mental illness. Times, p. 1. Retrieved from

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