Perceptions of Serial Killer Status and the Impact of Pop Culture Crime Dramas

Publication Date


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Criminal Justice Sciences


Jeff Walsh

Mentor Department

Criminal Justice Sciences


Beginning in the 1980's serial murder began to emerge as an entrenched part of pop culture entertainment and lore. More than 40 years later and the media and entertainment industries have continued to capitalize on the public's serial murder fascination with infamous killers rising to pseudo-celebrity status. Given the popularity of television crime dramas and the frequent portrayal of serial murderers the question arises, "What affect does this pseudo-celebrity portrayal have on public perception, and does public perception differ from reality?" While there has been research into media representation, not much has been done since the early 2000's with a focus on the effects of media with regards to serial killers. With the role media plays in the public and law enforcement perception of serial killers there needs to be a comprehensive look at how serial killers are represented in popular media. This research will examine data collected from a sample of university students using an e-survey to contextualize perceptions of serial murderers including a variety of traits and characteristics. The research will be looking at perception of serial killers (i.e. demographics, intelligence, ritual, signature, and typology) compared to FBI data and Aamodt's Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database Research Project. Additionally, the research will examine the relationship between perceptions of serial killers and the impact of watching popular crime dramas on television that frequently depict serial murderers. This research intends to answer three key questions (1) How are people's perceptions of Serial Killer characteristics effected by media consumption (2) How do these perceptions compare to Aamodt's Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database Research Project and (3) What are the policy and cultural implications of the celebrity status/media representations of serial killers.



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