Autogenic massacre as a maladaptive response to status threat

Marissa A. Harrison, Thomas G. Bowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


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 lowor 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)916-932
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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