April 7, 2000
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) If you've ever had a fleeting fantasy about killing someone, you're not alone. According to recent study findings, almost half of apparently normal people may harbor these fantasies.
``It appears that even 'nice' people contemplate murder in graphic detail,'' writes study author Dr Peter R. Crabb, an associate professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University's Abington campus. Some studies suggest that ''homicidal fantasies may be a relatively normal phenomenon with roots in the evolutionary history of the species,'' Crabb explains in an article to be published in the journal Aggressive Behavior.
Crabb asked 300 undergraduate students, mostly aged 18 or 19, to write a description of the last time they had thoughts about killing someone, and to complete a questionnaire about their 'weapon of choice' in this fantasy.
Sixty percent of males and 32% of females reporting having imagined killing someone, reports Crabb. About 20% of these fantasies grew out of ``lovers' quarrels'' and another 20% resulted from trivial disputes with friends, acquaintances, teachers, etc. Eleven percent were prompted by conflicts with family members.
Participants reported using their own hands or feet in 25% of these imagined killings. Almost as many used firearms. Clubs and knives were also frequently mentioned.
Most participants said that they had seen or heard about their 'weapon of choice' in films, on television, in the news, or in books. Most also said they had access to that weapon in real life.
Early in human evolution, aggression and even homicide may have given individuals an evolutionary advantage, according to the report. However, the vast majority of people have moral standards or adhere to social norms that prevent them from ever acting on their homicidal urges.
By exploring aggressive fantasies in normal people, notes Crabb, we might understand more about those who act on their fantasies, and perhaps be able to reduce the level of violence in society. SOURCE: Aggressive Behavior 2000.
Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.