9 February 2023
Ms Mariyam Batka, Teacher of Psychology
On Tuesday 7 February, Sixth Form psychology students and I listened to a fascinating lecture on The Psychology of Serial Killers at Wimbledon Theatre. This sell-out lecture was delivered by Jennifer Rees, an expert lecturer in the field of forensic psychology. A Level psychology students are given some choice over the content covered in the second year of the course and forensic psychology is always a popular option module. For Upper Sixth students, Jennifer’s lecture was a chance to reinforce and extend their knowledge of the forensic psychology unit which they are currently studying, while for Lower Sixth students the lecture provided a useful insight into what they could choose to study later in the course.
The evening commenced with a thorough exploration of the connection between childhood trauma and its influence on someone becoming a serial killer. This included a detailed case study of Pedro Filho, who is thought to be the inspiration behind the character Dexter in the eponymous TV series.
This was followed by analysis of the work of neuroscientists, including the neuroimaging work of James Fallon, who, while studying brain scans to search for patterns that are associated with psychopathic behaviour, found that his own brain fit the profile. Jennifer debunked several myths about serial killers during her lecture and the students learnt about the condition hybristophillia, which is used to explain why serial killers develop their own fan base. Jennifer also focused on case studies of female serial killers, and the students were astonished to learn about the case of Dorothea Puente, who, while in prison for the murders of nine people, wrote a cookbook. The audience was provided with the link to a free introduction to forensics course at the end of the evening.
While the lecture was fascinating, it also managed to deal with this topic in an incredibly sensitive manner. Our students left the theatre buzzing with enthusiasm and keen to share what they had learnt with their friends and family. These are some of their comments:
Anja H: I thought the was talk extremely interesting, especially the study the psychologist did where he found he had all the characteristics of a psychopath, as it made me rethink assumptions I have.
Freya W: Before the talk, I only knew about the famous serial killers who are often talked about, such as Ted Bundy. I am now aware of many others who aren't commonly talked about because they don't fit the stereotypes we have of serial killers.
Milly H-C: I thought the talk was very informative and well-structured. It further sparked my interest on the topic of serial killers as it delved into many cases and compared their brain structures, which I thought was very interesting.
Victory C-O: Hearing about the different explanations and theories behind why serial killers do what they do was fascinating. I learnt so much.