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January 28, 2018 at 2:31 pm

Alicke in Psychology Today | What If a Mass-Murderer Has No Motive?

Dr. Mark Alicke, portrait in his office

Dr. Mark Alicke

Dr. Mark Alicke, Professor of Psychology, authored a column in Psychology Today headlined “What If a Mass-Murderer Has No Motive?

…What the search for motive is about, I think, is the psychological well-being of the rest of us who have to live with the possibility that such events could occur anywhere at any time. We live simultaneously in the world “out there” and in the world inside our heads. Some philosophers, such as George Berkeley, considered these one and the same, but I assume that there is real stuff out there that the stuff in my head interacts with. In the subjective, phenomenological world of my mind, the external world has become a pretty dangerous place, and so it helps to find ways to deflect the ever-present threat. Many years ago, the psychologist, Melvin Lerner, developed the “just-world hypothesis” to explain the surprising and dismaying finding that accident victims are often blamed for their misfortunes. The reasoning behind the just-world hypothesis is that blaming victims makes the world seems like a more predictable and orderly place where people get what they deserve.

There are limits, though, to the just-world effect: I seriously doubt that anyone blames the victims in Las Vegas. But the need to believe in justice does suggest a reason why we might be so focused on the motives of people who commit mass murders….

Read the entire column in Psychology Today.

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