THE HUMAN EQUATION

Articles published in Psychology Today

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AMERICAN MAGAZINE

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

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Latest Article

Murder and Mental Illness

A poker player, a predator, and the odds of mental illness leading to violence.

How Many Chances Should a Serial Killer Get?

The parole of Colin Pitchfork shows just how har it is to predict future risk.

What Kind of Son Would Murder His Mother?

When Love and Money aren't enough.

Sadistic California Serial Killer Captured Forty Years Later

The Recent Arrest of Billy Ray Richardson Shows Justice Never Forgets

Pregnancy, Lies, Kidnapping and Murder

Who Would Steal a Baby Just to Keep a Man?

Anger, Depression, Violence, and Lost Children

There's a saying that those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it. The story of a 1920s murder-suicide shows just how true that is.

What Kind of Son Kills His Dad?

It's rare for a child to kill a parent, no matter what has happened between them. When he does, it's likely to be for one of three reasons.

How Much Influence Can One Person Have?

No one outside of a cult understands what it's like to be in one. Perhaps this woman's story can change that.

Some People Don't Believe a Loved One Committed Suicide

Few things are harder to accept than a loved one's suicide. But when an unexpected death carries the stain of suicide and the smell of murder, it can be a double whammy.

Cheerleaders, College Students and Call Girls

Of the 65 percent of serial killers' victims who are women, 76 percent are sex workers. But is that who they are or what they've done?

How do Killers find Their Targets, and Why They Often Get Away with it

Why do so many predators target the homeless, sex workers, or others on the margins of society? Looking at the most vulnerable victims may say something about all of us.

Linking Serial Killers, Mass Murderers, and Child Abusers

Think domestic violence can never touch your life? Neither did nightclub goers, church worshippers, or serial killer victims.

What If a Serial Killer Murdered Your Grandma?

It can be all to easy to attribute the death of an older person to natural causes. Sometimes, frighteningly so.

Did You Know a Crime Victim May Have Saved Your Life?

What would you do if the worst tragedy imaginable happened to you? I'd love to think I'd be half as brave as these people were.

Wrongful Convictions, Memory, and Eyewitness Testamony

A number of wrongful convictions have suggested we view eyewitness memory with a healthy dose of skepticism. But is it our memory that's the problem?

Think You Couldnt Be Duped By a Con Artist? Think Again.

The Netflix documentary "Rhe Tinder Swindler" has captivated audiences with its boldness, manipulation, and deception.

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?

Should It Matter if a Perpetrator Was Once a Victim

Why would a grown woman burn her father alive? She says it was payback for sexual abuse. But even if that's true, should it matter?

When the Child You've Raised Is a Batterer

We don't usually think about the family who raised a domestic violence perpetrator. What should we do if we do?

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?

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.

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?

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.

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.

The Tragedy of

Murder-Suicides

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

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?

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.

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.

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

Clothing

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?