Dr. Phil says there are 14 characteristics of a serial killer

… it’s promo for a show that will be on TV tomorrow, when I’ll still be working late. Some poor kid supposedly has 9 of the 14 characteristics… anybody know what Dr. Phil’s talking about.

I think the most important defining characteristic of a serial killer is that he kills people.

With insights like this, I can see how one attains 12,000 posts.

SPOOFEd again.

Well, IIRC torturing animals as a kid is one common charateristic of serial killers (that is, there is a high corrolation, not ness a causal link)

dunno what the other 13 could be.


No, and Dr. Phil doesn’t either.

This page lists 13, This one lists a couple dozen or so, and This excellent article goes into some depth, but reading through it doesn’t reveal any clear-cut characteristics one can use to define a serial killer. As usual, this seems to be a case of marketing rather than presenting useful, accurate information. Anyone who has spent any time studying the human mind knows how complex a subject it is, and that simplistic characterizations rarely tell the whole story.

From one of your links: :wink:

• Over 90 percent of them are white males
• They tend to be intelligent, with IQs in the “bright normal” range.

:eek: Your kid might be 2/13ths serail killer already! Act now to lower your child’s I.Q.!

Well as someone who’s been through therapy and has known a few good therapists, my instincts tell me that he’s a crock. He comes across as very judgemental and seems to take sides more than a good therapist would. He just doesnt seem that comfortable to be around (or watch on tv)

This is funny by the way.

Noting 13 commonalities in the childhood case studies of 36 convicted sex-serial killers may be “simplistic characterizations,” but it does serve to give one pause if there’s a troubled child in those circumstances, especially now that I find that the first 10 of the characterizations were drawn up by Robert K. Kessler of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit and other unnamed colleagues of his. (I’m not sure where the other three come from.)

I doubt when the list was initially developed in the early 80s it was done so for marketing purposes, although that may well be one of the ways its been used since. Fear can be used to sell many things.

It seems to me that Dr. Phil is probably cribbing from “Mindkiller” by John Douglas. Douglas basically founded the FBI Profiling unit and came up with a list of characteristics, but even he said that there’s not really any such thing as a “typical” serial killer. The characteristics give them a starting point to start looking for suspects, but even if you wet the bed until your teens, tortured animals daily, and had an abusive mother who screwed up your attitude toward sex (extreme examples of some of the biggies on his list) you might not kill anyone.

In Profiling, they use the clues from the crime scene with that list of characteristics to get an idea of what kind of behavior the killer is likely to have. If he does this kind of thing at the crime scene, he’s likely to _____ also. Douglas derived them by working in reverse. He looked at the killers they had already caught, looked for things they had in common in both their background and in their killing behavior.

The reply earlier of “the one thing they all have in common is that they all kill” is not really that facetious. Even if you have ALL of the characteristics in your behavior, you’re not a serial killer unless you start killing people. The most you could say is that you have some traits in common with known serial killers.

I don’t have a cite here, but…

I doubt there are proportionately fewer black serial killers than white ones. It’s just that, as with ADD and schoolyard shootings, blacks are assumed to have different motivations for the same behavior and are therefore left out of the statistical record. (Black kids, with traditionally less access to pricey pediatricians, are rarely diagnosed with ADD but I find it incredibly unlikely that they don’t have it in roughly the same proportion as white kids; and black kids who bring guns to school are presumed “drug related” and not counted as Columbine-style “schoolyard avengers.”)

Steel. Don’t you start echoing silly SPOOFE’s circular definitions. Of course you need to kill to be a serial killer. It’s not a particulary elusive or subtle a point you two are making. But consider: in these days of terror, suspicion and fear-driven consumerism, you don’t need to actually commit a crime to be treated like a criminal, if you happen to fit a specific criminal profile. People of Muslim/Arab descent are harrassed every day as potential terrorists. I’m a black male who deals with DWB and being followed around in stores frequently. I was in Atlanta, at the 1996 Olympics, as an Olympic and Paralympic security guard when the FBI profiled and went after Richard Jewell after the Centennial Park bombing. Here in Columbus, Ohio we’re known to prosecute people who’ve never acted out distasteful thoughts and urges they have as if they did so. It’s not that great a leap to assume you can be treated like a de facto serial killer if your actions and past experiences fit that profile, too.

I don’t want to turn this into a debate over criminal profiling as an effective law enforcement tool, per se. I’m just questioning what exactly the characteristics are that Phil McGraw was talking about, who came up with them, which are considered “biggies”, whether or not you can make accurate and intervening steps in if you disgnose someone with more than say 65% in childhood, etc.

Krokodil. Where are you getting your statistics? In my experience as an urban school teacher, black male children are more frequently diagnosed ADHD, and put on meds for it, than anybody else.

As for why blacks aren’t representative as perpetrators in school shootings: you’re partly right. Motive does mitigate our placement on these lists, but it’s also true that we just don’t live in the rural-to-suburban school districts where schoolyard avenging type shootings take place. When we do have blacks shooting up schools, it’s young boys playing tough in tragic accidents, not revenge vendettas.

My lame answer is “I saw it on TV a couple years ago somewhere.” I did a Google search and came up with this, though.

Speaking as a retired urban teacher who has had* students with guns in her classroom, my experience has been that Black students bring guns to school for protection, revenge killings against a single person and to show off to other students. (Just this year on the first day of classes, my old school had another such incident.)

Although other students may sometimes get hurt, there generally isn’t the display of “mow 'em all down” as seen in Columbine. Blacks seem less likely to blame their peers for their problems. (Gangs are altogether a different matter.)

For whatever reason, serial killers do overwhelmingly tend to be white and male. I have wondered if it has anything to do with the respect that Black males generally seem to have for their mothers. Maybe they don’t develop the deep-seated hatred of females.

In fact the wisecrack that one characteristic of a serial killer is that he kills people has some wisdom in it.

Many serial killers are not the thrill killers we see on TV. Many are robbers, burglars or other regular old crooks who kill. If a guy robs a store and kills the clerk, there is a greater chance than normal that he has killed before and will kill again unless caught.

So if you have a robber-murderer in custody, you ought to consider closely if he has a habit of killing.

What are Dr Phil’s qualifications to assess which of the various presumed predictor systems is effective and to allege that as a professional across the national airwaves, anyway?

Actually, we had a recent thread (Why do most serial killers seem to be white?) which seemed to pretty convincingly rebut the notion that “serial killers are overwhelmingly white”.

Just checking in to see if the characteristic “Has the middle name Wayne” is in there somewhere.

But seriously, to answer Polycarp’s question, Dr. Phil does apparently have a PhD in Psychology from the University of North Texas. His undergrad work started at U of Tulsa but he graduated from Midwestern State University. So he has some credentials, but you can choose to take them with however many grains of salt that they deserve.

I know the 2 signs of a hack Psychiatrist/Psychologist (not sure which one he is):

  1. Dr.
  2. Phil

From Dr. Phil’s own site.
**As a professional psychologist, he has published numerous scholarly articles and has practiced in the many fields of clinical psychology and behavioral medicine. Dr. Phil has a B.S, M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from North Texas State University with a dual area of emphasis in clinical and behavioral medicine. He has been a board-certified and licensed clinical psychologist since 1978. **

I did a quick search on our library’s database for any articles written by him, and I found a shitload about him, but not by him.

From Is Dr. Phil a real doctor?
**McGraw went to the University of Tulsa on a football scholarship, but was injured and completed his B.A. at Midwestern State University in 1975. He followed this up with studies at the University of North Texas where he earned a master’s degree in experimental psychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology in 1979.

Soon after, he started a psychology practice with his father. But during a decade of treating patients, Dr. Phil realized that he didn’t have the patience for the job. So he co-founded Courtroom Services, Inc., a company that uses its expertise in psychology to help lawyers in trials.
So he has a decade of clinical work and at least a decade of working in the legal system. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was called as an expert witness himself in some trials, though I honestly don’t know how to find that information. I’m sure though that he had to be familiar with cases involving serial killers out of necessity, even if he didn’t have an active hand in the cases or the trials. But that’s just pure conjecture on my part…