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The Psychology and Contagion of Mass Shootings

In the United States at this moment in time, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of mass shootings and domestic terrorism. Each day it seems that our media is reporting on another violent incident or another active shooter situation that makes people wonder: what is going on? Where are these people coming from? From recent research, it has been hypothesized that the media and the notoriety provided to mass shooters have an effect on the creation of copycat imitators and the mass shooting contagion.

The Contagion Effect Study

The contagion effect has been well-documented in cases of suicides and one of the main reasons why there is very little reporting about suicides in the media. According to a study put forth by Arizona State University, there was strong evidence pointing to the finding that acts of mass violence and incidents of school shootings are contagious.

Study in Children Show Aggression and Violence is “Contagious” when Witnessed

Though the copycat effect is not a new phenomenon, it does explain a piece of the contagious behavior seen in acts of mass violence. According to a study In 1961, people are extremely susceptible to behaviors such as aggression and violence when witnessed firsthand, especially at a young age. The study first evaluated the level of aggression in children between the ages of 3-6. The study then proceeded to show a subset of the children a male or female model acting aggressively towards a doll. The adult either hit the doll with a hammer or threw it up in the air violently. The second group of children watched as the doll was played with by the adult in a more passive manner. The last group (the control) did not witness the adult playing with the doll at all. Ultimately, the children who saw the adult harm the doll imitated and acted aggressively toward the doll the same way in which the adult did.

The Depersonalization Effect

The copycat effect is also popular due to the fact that the copycat is able to depersonalize his/her behavior. Depersonalization is the idea that it is easier to harm another when the violent person does so under a persona. A persona or character provides a vehicle for the person to act in a way in which he would generally not act otherwise. A new identity allows the person to separate from his identity and take on the role of this persona, i.e. the violent behavior. In addition, knowing that he will receive publicity for his actions provide further incentive for sculpting this new persona. Notoriety is a strong pull for those who want the attention and knowing that his predecessors (the ones whose actions the person is copying) have received acknowledgement, encourages him further.

Mass Shootings In Florida

Mass shooting is not unheard of in Florida. According to a recent article in Patch, it was determined that there have been 73 mass shootings in Florida since 2013. Mass shootings are defined as events where there are at least 4 people who have been injured or killed as a result of gun violence. The shooter may be included as part of the 4. Nationwide, since 2013, there have been an estimated 1,052 mass shootings, with 353 mass shootings in 2015 alone.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one has been involved in an incident of violence, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik who can provide you guidance in the criminal justice system. Everyone deserves a fair trial and a legal advocate. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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