Articles published in Psychology Today

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The Human Equation, looks at the dark side of human nature, with a special emphasis on women and crime.

Topics include female serial killers, Munchausen by proxy, cult leaders, and the psychology of evil.

Serial Killers, Self-Reliance, and Everything in Between


A Real-World View of Incompetence to Stand Trial

Accused murderer Lori Vallow has been found incompetent to stand trial and sent to treatment. Is she faking it? Will she ever stand trial? Here's a forensic psychologist's take.

The Psychology of "Copycat Killers"

People often discuss copycat killers after a mass shooting or serial murder. But if the media inspires murder, why aren't true crime fans more violent?

Precious Commodities

Most of us think of life insurance as a way to protect our children from an uncertain future. But what if it's a way to use our child to finance our own?

Latest Article

Predators Who Pretend to Be Victims

If you don't think there's such a thing as a wolf in sheep's clothing, check out these predators masquerading as victims.

Dying of Old Age

- or Murder?

Just because a senior citizen dies doesn't mean it's "natural". Here's how family members spotted a homicide-in-disguise.

Would You Want a Teenage Killer Locked Up for Life?

Should teen killers be given a break because of their developing brains or should the facts of the crime guide the punishment? The Supreme Court has spoken.

The Case of Accused French Serial Killer Nordahl Lelandais

Serial killers have a lot in common in how they think and what they do. Here's what we're learning from a recent case in France.

Lori Vallow Found Incompetent to Stand Trial

Just as Lori Vallow is finally facing murder charges, a psychologist says she is not competent to stand trial. But is she really similar to other incompetent defendants?

The Right to Life

In January 2021, 18 American children were killed in a murder-suicide. Here's why.

Serial Killer vs.

Serial Killer

Covid-19 has been called a serial killer, but what happens when a medical serial killer meats a real-life one?

The Volga Maniac has Been Arrested

In 2011 and 2012, a Russian serial killer murdered over 20 elderly women along the Volga river. Now that he's been caught, what can we learn from his confession?

The Deaths of Meg Purk and Natalie Jones

Does a victim's history of depression make it more likely that a murder will be staged as a suicide?

When 'Suicide' is Really Murder

What would you do if you thought someone you loved had been murdered but their killer had staged it to look like a suicide--and was getting away with it?

One is a Tragedy, Two is Suspicious, and Three is Murder

In 2019, Nancy Moronez was found guilty or murdering three infants over 30 years ago. All three deaths were initially attributed to SIDs. How could this happen?

The Tragedy of


Eleven murder-suicides are committed every week. Here's what we know about why those tragedies occur.

Dark Connections

Sexual predators targeting children on the internet are all too common. But internet murderers are much more diverse than you might think

-- and so are their victims.

Lisa Snyder & the Deaths of Conner & Brinley

Lisa Snyder says her 8-year-old son committed a murder-suicide because he was bullied and depressed. Prosecutors say she killed them both. But what does the research tell us?

Hell on Wheels

Cars has long been used as weapons. But a recently arrested alleged serial murderer used his car to kill. Is he the first?

Adoption Scams, Continued

Adoption scams are rare, but they happen. Don't let them keep you from the joy of a child. Just know what to look for so it doesn't happen to you.

My Cult Made Me Do It

The ability to tell the difference between religious fanaticism and mental illness may determine a defendant's valid insanity plea or the death penalty.

Adoption Scams

From the adoption fraudster who promised made-up babies to the Arizona attorney who's accused of baby trafficking, adoptive parents can be scammed. Here's how.

Extreme Beliefs or Religious Delusions

Where is the line between delusions and extreme religious beliefs? The answer to that question may help investigators solve the mystery of three dead adults and two missing children.

Serial Murder and

Serial Killers

From the hit show Mind Hunter to documentaries about Ted Bundy; there was a lot of buzz about serial killers in 2019. But what happened in real life? Take a look at five trends.

Catch a Predator?

New evidence suggests that sexual assault perpetrators don't fit into neat categories. The date that rapes a naive college student could be the next neighborhood serial rapist.

Confessed Serial Killer Jollyamma Joseph

Police say a wife and mother killed 6 people over 14 years. Did disbelief that a woman could do this help her get away with it, even when her husband's body contained cyanide?

The Most Disturbing

Red Flag of Domestic Violence

When someone is in an abusive relationship, it's hard to know just how dangerous the situation is. One question can tell us a lot.

A Wolf in Sheep's


We often think of a place of worship as a safe haven and look to our religious leaders for guidance. But what if s/he is looking at you as prey?

Narcissism, Rage, and Murder

Many prosecutors in recent murder cases have called the accused a narcissist. But is this true? Is there a link between narcissism and violence?

Rolling the Dice With Other People's Lives

For those who stand in the way of pathological gamblers' compulsion, the results can occasionally be deadly.

We Need to Talk About Kevin... and Harry and Aaron

Being diagnosed as a psychopath can only happen once someone is 18. How should we handle teenagers who look and act like their grown-up counterparts?

Dark Ambitions

What do serial killers and wannabe killers have in common? New research finds surprising similarities that may help us catch them sooner.

Poisoning at the Office

While managers and employees are aware of the potential for workplace violence, few think of it in terms of a coworker dying from an intentional poisoning. But it happens.

Is Jussie Smollett Crying Wolf?

Hate crimes hurt the victims, terrify similar others, and - sometimes - are met with skepticism, defensiveness, and doubt. So why would anyone make one up?

The Road to Rage

Few of us worry about being shot to death when we get behind the wheel of a car. But news headlines and recent statistics show road rage is happening more often and can be deadly.

Five Myths About Female Serial Killers

Stereotypes about women and violence have allowed female serial killers to get away with murder far longer - and more often - than you might think.

Mother Anna Young and the House of Prayer

What is it like to grow up in a destructive religious cult? Two children tell it like it was.

Violent Female Offenders

Violent female offenders often give us clues to their future during their childhood and teen years. So why do we miss them?

Multiple Personality or Malingering?

What happens when a person with multiple personalities kills? Pamela Moss claimed her alters were linked to two murders committed years apart but insisted she, the host was not.

This Japanese Serial Killer Targeted the Suicidal

When a Japanese serial killer picked his victims on the internet by responding to suicidal posts, was he targeting people who really wanted to die?

Kid Killers

In 2014, two 12 year old girls tried to kill a classmate to appease an imaginary internet horror figure. How typical is this of kids who kill?

Mind Games

Most mental health professionals have the best interest of their clients at heart. But, when they don't, the "cure" can be worse than the "disease".

The 3 Stages of a Dangerously Obsessive Ex

How can we predict who will kill someone s/he once loved? Look at the dark clouds in the relationship to predict storms after a breakup.

Hooked on Homicide

Is it possible for someone to become addicted to killing? Here's what crime experts, soldiers, and serial killers say.

Your'e Not My Real Mother (Part 1)

What if the person closest to you suddenly felt like a different person? Individuals suffering from Capgras delusions believe that a loved one has been replaced by and imposter. Here's why.

You're Not My Real Mother (Part 2)

Capgras sufferers who murder a family member don't believe they are committing a crime or are harming someone they love. In fact, their motive is often to save the world/themselves form evil or to somehow "rescue" their loved one from an imposter.

Dangerous Daydreams

What do future serial killers think about before they kill someone? In the beginning, not much more than many traumatized children.

Million Dollar Baby

Ever since it has been possible for parents to buy life insurance on their children, a few parents have traded diapers for dollars.

Cat Fights

When girls kill each other, it's often to protect a relationship or a reputation.

Partners in Crime

When two people kill together, one often leads and the other follows. But how does the dynamic begin? Are they both destined for crime or does one corrupt the other?

Babysitters from hell

It is rare for a nanny or babysitter to kill a child s/he is hired to love and protect. This fact is little consolation for the families who live through it.

Serial Killing for Cash

Serial killers for profit may start out with money in mind but may wind up addicted to the psychological payoff.

Warning Signs of Dangerous Relationships

There are warning signs early on in a dangerous relationship but sometimes our need for a relationship trumps our willingness to see the truth

Trash Talk or Tremors of Trouble

"I'm going to kill you" are words that don't belong on the playground or in the classroom. But how seriously should a child's threat be taken?


The Case of Serial Killer Dellen Millard

Is there such a thing as too much love? Maybe not, but in serial killer Dellen Millard's case, there was too much of something.

Now Dasher, Now Dancer, Now


It's common knowledge that domestic violence and holiday stress go together.But the real danger for domestic violence victims may not be what you think it is.

Bad to the Bone

Over 100 years ago, Charles Spearman identified a general factor of intelligence. Today, researchers say there is a general factor for evil, a dark core of personality traits.

Alleged Serial Killer Considering the Insanity Plee

With all the planning and covering up that is typical of serial killers, can on truly be insane? Here's what history says.


Kidnap-Proof Your College Student

Mollie Tibbetts was a beautiful young college student abducted and killed while out for a jog. Let's honor her memory by keeping our own college kids save.


"She Would Never Kill Herself"

If someone you loved killed her or himself, would you believe it? A psychological autopsy can help death investigators figure out which ones are genuine and which are murder.


The Path to Payback

Why do revenge murderers often kill innocent victims? Perhaps it's not a person he's trying to kill.

What We Know (and Don't Know) About Female Psychopaths

Is Kelly Cochran a female psychopath or was she the victim of an abusive boyfriend? She'll have a long time to think about it.

Innocent People Don't Confess and They Don't Plead Guilty

Is it possible for a serial killer to be innocent? The case of the Liptrick Killer, William Heirens, shows how complicated a confession can be.


Identify Theft and Murder

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime. Recently some victims have lost more than money when they were targeted by a lookalike criminal looking to start a new life.


Sexual Harassment

It's 2017, so why are we still talking about sexual harassment? Here's how to talk to the person who needs it the most.


Munchausen by Proxy or Con Artist Mom?

The tragic story of Gypsy and Dee Blanchare is set to air as an HBO documentary on May 15. Here's a look at the law and psychology behind a case of medical child abuse and murder.


Which is "Crazier?"

How does a forensic psychologist tease out the mind of a criminal defendant at the time he committed it? Debunking one myth - and investigating one source - at a time.


Split Decisions in the Courtroom

The movie Split has broughts Dissociative Identity Disorder back into the spotlight. Here's how this controversial diagnosis plays out in the courtroom.


From Mice to Men

A recent rash of animal killings in Canada have raised new questions about a budding serial killer. Do serial killers target animals first? Here's what the research says.


Serial Killers in 2016

What can we learn from an overview of serial killers in 1026? Let's take a look at the new faces of serial murder.


Delusional or Dissident?

Can hate crimes be fueled by mental illness? Here's what the evidence says.


3 Tips to Stay Safe When an Ex Becomes a Stalker

When a stalker is a former lover, the victim must be aware of the psychological blind spots that can increase her risk.


Hunting the Japanese Hospital Serial Killer

A serial killer is stalking senior citizens at a Japanese hospital. What kind of person would do this?


"You're My Celebrity Soulmate"

When does a fan become a foe? When the pseudo-intimacy of social media is mistaken for a real relationship.


Understanding Serial Animal Abusers

What exactly is the relationship between animal cruelty and violence towards humans? A look at serial animal abusers sheds light on this complex relationship.


The Psychology of Murder for Hire

It's pretty common to fantasize about a loved one's demise when we're in the throes of anger, hurt or desperation. But it takes a special person, to put those thoughts into action.

The Death of Munchausen by Proxy (Part 2)

Medical child abuse is rare but it happens. Pediatricians who suspect it must balance the safety needs of the child against the risk of a false accusation.


The Men Who Murdered Halloween

Halloween has thrilled trick or treaters for years and terrified parents for just as long. What if your child bites into an apple with a razor blade inside or trips out on an Exstasy-laced Pixie Stixx? 

The Death of Munchausen by Proxy (Part 1)

It's time for the term Munchausen by proxy to die a timely death in terms of its use in medical child abuse allegations and for investigators to focus on the impact on the child rather than the intent of the parent.


Like Mother, Like Daughter

Children who are raised by toxic parents often grow up to be decent human beings who learn to separate themselves from their parent's problems and surround themselves with loving, encouraging friends.


The Psychopathic Mother

What happens when female psychopaths become mothers?


Life on the Baby Farm

Once upon a time, there were unskilled and unwed single mothers, shunned by their families for their "immorality" and without social services to help them with childcare.


Lying, Murder and Deceptive 911 Calls

Even in the middle of a crisis, it is possible to tell the difference between a manipulative murderer and a deperate mom.


Big Lies and the Boogie Man

I''s hard for most of us to believe that someone can murder a relative, claim s/hewas ubducted, and then go on TV and plead for his or her safe return.

The Childhoods of Munchausen by Proxy Moms

Women who induce illness in their children to get attention from medical professionals seem to have some common childhood experiences.


Heroine Rush

With Munchausen by proxy, the same mechanism that predicts that women should be the ones to to provide greater investment to their children can at times 'misfire' by having psychiatrically damaged women create conditions that signal to the world their attentiveness and devotion.


The Predatory Stalker

Predatory stalkers are the most dangerous of stalkers - and often the most charming on the surface.


Serial Killer Groupies Who Kill

It is possible to "love' someone so much that you want to copy everything he does - even murder?


The Making of a Serial Killer Groupie

You'd be surprised by how easy it is for some women to all in love with serial killers.


How to Think Like A Criminal

Criminals have more in common than crime. They share a common mindset.


This Man is Mine

Some women would rather have a dead lover than one who sleeps around.


How Much is Your Mother Worth?

What would lead a college freshman and aspiring doctor to decide that money was more precious than a mother's love?


Black Widows on the Web

Blck widow serial killers have money on their minds and kill to get it.


Fatal Attraction

The dysfunction that blinds two people together can be much more deadly than when they are apart.


"This is Why I Killed Your Kids"

Can a mother's need for revenge overshadow her ability to nurture?


Serial Couples

Wives of serial killer couples often come from abusive backgrounds, but they also have something else missing.


Female Mass Murderers

Female mass murderers can be as deadly as men, but they don't show up at movie theaters wearing camouflage and seeking revenge.


Matricide by Teen Girls

Teen girls who murder their moms are either trying to end family abuse or they've become the abusers themselves.


A Psychological Profile of a Poisoner

Like the method they use,poisoners can be hard to pin down. But they do share some common personality characteristics.


Looking into My Eyes and Kill Your Husband

Murder and hypnosis.


Female Animal Abusers

Women tend to abuse animals through neglect. However, when thet do use physical violence, they're just as deadly as men.


Scary Children

Children with severe behavior problems aren't necessarily budding psychopaths but they need help.


The Medical Murder Club

Eighty six percent of healthcare serial killers are nurses. Meet 4 who formed a murder club


Dying for a Baby

The length to which a woman will go through to get a baby depends both on how desperate and how disturbed she is.


Are Women Becoming More Violent?

Are women using more direct methods of violence?


Dressed to Kill

Addiction and homicide are often related, but few of us think of compulsive shopping as a motive for murder.


Albert Knobbs with an Edge

Meet a female serial killer who made Albert Knobbs look like a kid playing dress up.


Female Serial Killers

Just because female serial killers aren't as flashy as males doesn't mean they aren't as deadly.


The Pathological Liar's Club

Pathological lying may be one of the first clues female serial killers leave before they kill.


Child Serial Killing

Is there a link between multiple infant deaths in the same family and murder? It depends on who you ask.


The Nurturing Ruse

While both male and female serial killers use deception to lure their prey, women are especially gifted at keeping up a facade over time.


"Sure, I Regret it... But He Started It"

One clue to the psychopathic killer's mind is how he explains the murder.


Young Female Murderers

Incomparison to adolescent boys, teen girls are more likely to kill people close to them.


Psychotherapy With a Buddy Serial Killer

Is it possible to treat a budding serial killer before s/he acts?


Female Cult Leaders Who Kill

There may be 100 years between these two cults, but the leaders share a lot in common.


Sexual Murder

New research may help us catch serial killers before they kill again.


Female Psychopaths

While more males than females are psychopaths, there may be more psychopathic woman than we think.

Money, Drugs and Partying: Is This Why Kids Kill Their Parents?

Kids who kill their parents are either desperate to escape abuse, coldly calculating psychopaths, or severely mentally ill.


How to Leave a Violent Relationship

Perhaps the best kept secret about relationship violence is that many women have the courage to end it.


Wife Killers Part 2: The Nice Murderer Next Door

What kind of man murders his wife? Two kinds, it seems. There's the wife beater who keeps going until she winds up dead and the calculating spouse who chooses murder over divorce.


Wife Killers Part 1: Battered to Death

One of the biggest reasons battered women stay is they're afraid they'll be killed if they leave. And, without professional help, they might.

A Mother's Day in Court: Women Who've Killed for Their Daughters

These three women show that the most dangerous place to be is between a mother and her child. And if you do, you'd better not brag about it.

Children Who Are Cruel to Animals: When to Worry

Animal cruelty in children is one of the best predictors of later violence and criminality. However, most young children do mean things to an animal at some point.

Panic Attack at the Office:When Anxiety Spirals Out of Control

What do you do when a coworker suddenly hyperventilates, starts sweating and tells you she thinks she's "going crazy?"


How to Talk to a Depressed Employee

It can be hard to know what to do when a good employee suddenly starts slacking off, arguing with coworkers, or seems depressed. Here's the answer.

Postpartum Panic : Not Depressed, Just Scared to Death

More and more pregnant women are familiar with the perils of postpartum depression but what if the symptoms you experience after birth don't fit?


The Doctor is in... a Bad Mood

We like tod think our docto's effectiveness is determined by his education and expertise. You might be surprised - and alarmed - to learn what else impacts his or her treatment decisions.


Relationship Advice

The good, the bad and the Ugly.