The Homunculus

Psychology, Anthropology, Evolution

Scream all you want

Posted by Joy Icayan on December 8, 2009

That’s John Wayne Gacy Jr. Known as the Clown Killer, Gacy Jr. would dress up as Pogo the Clown and go to children’s parties to entertain. He was also father, a husband, a political activist, and a respected member of the community. During an investigation of a boy’s disappearance, policemen came inside Gacy’s home and smelled the odor of corpses coming from a heating duct. Gacy had killed more than 30 boys, most buried under his floor. He joked that he was guilty of ‘running a cemetery without a license.’

In a paper published  by Marsh and Blair on individuals with antisocial behavior and the recognition of facial expressions, antisocial populations were found to have a significantly impaired detection of fearful expressions. These populations  were those showing presence of antisocial behaviors (aggressive, criminal etc) and those with both antisocial behaviors and personality traits such as lack of remorse/guilt often termed as psychopathic. Normal individuals have a basic range of emotions – happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, the expressions of which are universal across cultures. .

Bering notes that fear has been argued as the distress signal of individuals, more than sadness, as it signals a more urgent need. Psychopaths do not recognize this fear. Bering writes about a task where a psychologist (Marsh’s colleage) showed a murderer a picture of a fearful face. “I don’t know what that expression is called, but I know it’s what people look like right before I stab them,” said the murderer.   


John Wayne Gacy Jr. wiki entry

The problem with psychopaths

Details in facial affect recognition among anti-social populations (PDF)


One Response to “Scream all you want”

  1. […] no. It was earlier mentioned that psychopaths have an impaired capacity to detect fearful expressions. In his book How We […]

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