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Madison Thome

A.P. Language and Composition

Miss Thomson
6 February 2018
A Life Without Emotion

Richard Ramirez, a well-known serial killer, is quoted stating, “Even psychopaths have

emotions; then again, maybe not” (Ramirez). Psychopaths are a common, functioning part of

today’s society. The word psychopath and sociopath are often interchanged, but they do not

mean the same thing. Many think that psychopaths are evil and vindictive; this is not true in most

cases. Psychopaths are world leaders, doctors, and businessmen. However, psychopaths are also

serial killers and mass murders such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. The defining factor that

differentiates psychopaths from serial killers is the presence and severity of a traumatic

childhood experience.

The words psychopath and sociopath are misused, or misinterpreted. They are thought to

mean the same thing; however, there is a major difference. Psychopaths and sociopaths are both

diagnosed with a condition known as antisocial personality disorder, but there are many traits a

psychopath has differentiating them from a sociopath. To simplify, a psychopath can be

perceived as a person with more severe symptoms than a sociopath. Doctors have found that

sociopaths can feel certain emotions and can form bonds with people, such as family and friends,

however, psychopaths cannot feel any emotional connection to anyone. This is the crucial

difference. A sociopath feels guilt or remorse hurting a person they have formed a connection

with, whereas a psychopath would not feel anything. Overtime, a sociopath would learn to feel

emotions such a empathy and love leading them to become an active part of society. Psychopaths

cannot contribute to society so easily. In order to be perceived as what would be considered

normal, a psychopath would have to “effectively mimic feelings” because they lack the ability to
feel emotions (Croft). The inability to feel emotions can often times lead to violence.

Although psychopathy is a personality disorder without a cure, some personality

disorders are treatable, such as depression and anxiety. A psychopaths brain is damaged which

creates a lack of emotion depending on the severity of the damage. If a child growing up with

antisocial personality disorder undergoes traumatic events in their childhood it can lead to

violence in their adolescent years. The tragic events can be physical abuse by adult figures,

bullying, and substance abuse. As the child progresses into their teenage years and even

adulthood, this mistreatment will begin to surface in dangerous ways. However, not all

psychopaths are violent. Many live a successful, normal life. Various U.S. presidents, world

renowned doctors, and billionaires are psychopaths. The difference between these successful

men and women that tested positive for psychopathy and the psychopaths that became serial

killers depends on the events that happened in their childhood.

Furthermore, serial killers share many common traits. In fact, each trait can be linked to

their childhood. A common trait for psychopaths turned serial killers is the need to assert

dominance over someone or something. Many begin with the torture of small animals. This is

one of the most common signs of a child’s psychopathic tendencies. It is easy for a child to assert

its power over something smaller and weaker than itself. This tendency often times relates back

to the child’s parents. If a child was abused by his parents, he most likely felt powerless. An

example of this is Jeffrey Dahmer. He was an “energetic and happy child” until he underwent a

surgery that seemingly changed his personality for good (sociopath). His parents divorced when

he was fourteen years old. This event seemed to trigger his murderous thoughts and violent

Another common trait serial killers share is a poor, abusive family life. Almost all serial

killers were abused as children by a family member or adult they felt close with. When the child

is being abused the emotions of fear, humiliation, rage, and helplessness are present. As the

abuse continues, these become the only feeling the child recognizes. The child’s brain becomes

severely damaged, which affects the decisions they make in the future. Serial killers that were

abused as children often times want to inflict the emotions they felt into their victims. Ed

Kemper now known as the “Co-ed Killer”, brutally murdered his grandparents when he was

fifteen. He moved in with his grandparents because his mother was an alcoholic who regularly

abused him emotionally and physically. She was the last person he killed. In an interview

Kemper reflects on the night he killed her. Ed Kemper explained to the investigators he knew a

week in advance he was going to kill his mother and exactly how he would do so. That night he

recalls his mother tells him, “I have not had sex in seven years because of you” (Kemper). He

later goes into the details of her murder explaining that he “cut off her head and humiliated her

corpse”, blaming his previous murders on the way she raised him (Kemper). After murdering

her, he cut her vocal chords out and put them into the garbage disposal. This was because she

often emotionally abused him and he did not ever want to hear her talk again. Ed Kemper’s

neglecting family life is what motivated him to become a serial killer.

In any case, the most unusual trait serial killers share is an abnormally high I.Q. Serial

killers such as Kemper, Dahmer, and Bundy all have extremely high IQ’s categorizing them as

geniuses. Their high I.Q. contributed to their success of killing and not getting caught. Each man

was extremely organized in his killing knowing exactly how to get away with murder. After

Kemper murdered his grandparents he was sent to a psychiatric hospital. While serving his

sentence of double homicide, he convinced the doctors that he realized what he did and that he
was a changed man. Having served only five years, he was released. He knew exactly what to

say to the doctors and how to act. He later went on to kill eight more women including his

mother. Feeling his job was complete after killing his mother, he turned himself into the police

ending his career as a serial killer.

Unquestionably the most heinous and grotesque trait serial killers share is their need for

sexual dominance. Dahmer, Bundy, and Kemper each vandalized their victims sexually. Bundy

would use his handsome looks and fake injuries to lure his victims to him. Once he had their

attention, he would knock them out taking them back to his apartment where he would kill them

and then rape their dead bodies. Usually, he would keep the corpse and sleep with it next to him,

so that he did not feel alone. A strong distinction of Jeffrey Dahmer’s is, he would invite men

back to his apartment. Once they were there and they had intercourse, he did not want them to

leave ever again. The only way to accomplish this was to kill them. After he had killed them, he

would keep the body parts and pictures of them. In comparison, Kemper’s murders were a result

of his childhood abuse as well. Kemper sexually violated his victims after he killed them. He

buried the women under his mother’s window with their heads facing up, recalling that his

mother “always liked to be looked up to” (Kemper).

A serial killer’s childhood is commonly littered with physical or emotional abuse. The

abuse or other traumatic situations experienced by Bundy, Dahmer, and Kemper unfortunately

began their paths of killing and violence. They had the potential to become successful business

man or family man, but because of their mistreatment as a child they are now known for their

cold, cruel murders signing their names in history one victim at a time.
Works Cited

Cedwards. “These Creepy Quotes from Serial Killers Will Honestly Make Your Blood Run
Cold.” Life Death Prizes, 13 Jan. 2017, www.lifedeathprizes.com/real-life-crime/creepy-quotes-

Frese, Susan. “Crime and Forensic .” Crime Museum, 23 June 2014,


IluvEdKemper. “Ed Kemper Interview 1984 1/2.” YouTube, YouTube, 17 June 2011,

“SiOWfa15: Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy.” SiOWfa15 Science in Our
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“Sociopath vs. Psychopath: What's the Difference?” WebMD, WebMD,


Tracy, Natasha. “Can Psychopaths Love, Cry or Experience Happiness? - Psychopath -

Personality Disorders.” HealthyPlace, www.healthyplace.com/personality-

Tracy, Natasha. “Famous Psychopaths You Wouldn't Want to Run Across - Psychopath -
Personality Disorders.” HealthyPlace, www.healthyplace.com/personality-

Tracy, Natasha. “Psychopath vs. Sociopath: What's the Difference?” HealthyPlace,