The Antisocial Behaviour of a Psychopathic Serial Killer; Does its Origin Lies in an Evolutionary Defect?

Maria Anna van Driel
5 min readMay 31, 2021

By Maria Anna van Driel,

Throughout history, humans have committed horrific crimes, which seem to reflect a primordial and animalistic behavior in human survival. But what exactly makes someone a serial killer? Are they the product of bad genes, the victim of environmental factors, or should we look in the direction of an evolutionary defect?

In my article “Pareidolia; Does it Teach us the Difference Between Life and Death With Affection?” I viewed the question if Pareidolia is teaching us what affection is as well if this phenomena has any influence on how we treat both our own emotions and those of others in our adult life’s. Writing a plausible answer to this mind dazzling question made me think about if there is a possibility that the gruesome actions of psychopathic (serial) killers has its origin in the absence of ‘feeling’ the effects in this phenomenon? Meaning, ‘them’ not having the full experiencing of this evolutionary effect in face-recognition, aka Pareidolia, could be the cause of these ‘humanoid predators’ not being able to recognize and acknowledge the human emotions in the facial expressions of their victims?

Killing or Hunting

Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer…the mind of a psychopath is indeed a curious entity. Not only are many of us intrigued by their way of thinking, we also have, in one way or another, a macabre fascination for their grisly actions.

Not that we are taking an example from their actions but more with the question ”What is it that triggers someone to follow a path of violence and committing horrible crimes?” and, “Is it possible to unravel the mind of a serial killer and unlinking the many narrow alleys of this entangled labyrinth they are walking in their mind?”

As with most things in life, the answer to a question is not always a simple yes or no. The same platitude can be applied to the question if someone has the potential of developing the characteristics of that of a psychopathic (serial) killer or not. Although the answer is not that simple, it appears that there is a requirement for a genetic, physical, and social combination for a person to show an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Those born with the so called ‘genes’, and possible associated brain structures, of a psychopath are not guaranteed to become one. Likewise, those who suffer some form of childhood trauma or abuse are also not likely to become psychopaths. Is it when both these conditions are merged that psychopathic behavior is presenting itself?

Honestly, I have no concrete answer for what drives these ‘celebrity monsters’ as Prof. Scott Bonn refers to them in his article “What Drives Our Curious Fascination With Serial Killers?” on his blog of Psychology Today.

But, personally, I do agree on the thought that most of us have a ‘phobia-level response’ to violence, as the author Dave Grossman described in his book, “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society”. The human species is not born with the skill to ‘kill’, we are born with the skill to ‘hunt’. Even though these two skills sound different, these behaviours can be seen as one and the same act but viewed from a different angle by means of the situation, and environment, in where ‘the kill’ is taken place. What for us is seen as killing is, for a psychopathic (serial) killer, considered as a hunt. The difference between us ‘hunting’ a deer for food and a psychopathic (serial) killer ‘killing’ his/her victim in a, for instance, sound proof cellar, seems to lie in the thrill of both seeing the ‘target’ suffering and the end results.

Born or Made?

For years, neuroscience and psychology have become progressively focused on the brain differences between individuals and specifically trying to identify what makes someone kill another human being without feeling any regrets and guilt. But, despite the efforts of modern criminology to decode the brain of a typical serial killer, a concrete explanation has not reached yet.

However, while not all killers are psychopaths, psychopathic traits are seen in many of them and may be well a combination of environmental factors and the lack of support in a personal psychological evolution during childhood.

I wonder if severe trauma’s as such can cause the brain making a conscious choice to exclude certain effects when distinguishing between what is ‘dead’ and what is ‘alive’ what in turn can trigger the grisly behavior(s) we see with psychopathic (serial) killers.

It is a thin line indeed! Fortunately, for most of us, taking the life of another is an act we cannot imagine. We have an innate brake system, something which tells us that this is an act we just cannot carry out.

Can we consider this form of ‘defect’ in an evolutionary process during childhood being a reality and thus link their ‘acts’ into their adult lives?

Although the question Have these humanoid predators developed a robotic view what is causing them not being able of recognizing and acknowledging the human emotions in the facial-expressions of their victims might still lie in front of us like an open and abandoned piece of dry desert, the possibility of the brain learning how to make a clear distinguish between something being alive or dead by means of the effects in Pareidolia, should not be ignored when trying to decode the behavior of a psychopathic (serial) killer.

As I stated in my article “Pareidolia; Does it Teach us the Difference Between Life and Death With Affection?” this paranormal phenomena seems to be an important evolutionary process in one’s life as it is teaching us how to treat both ourselves and others in our adult life. And, not to serve ‘time’ as a psychopathic (serial) killer.



Maria Anna van Driel

In 2020 I realized I was trapped in a toxic relationship since '00. In Aug. '22 I found the strength to break away, flip my life to become a psychotherapist.