and the UNeXpLaiNed ©Copyrighted by Dave Ayotte & Caty Bergman

SEK: Developmental Research

TOC (Table Of Contents)



Developmental Research, as we think it applies to serial killers, is the idea that the environment, either alone or in collaboration with genetics helps develop the necessary psychology to be a successful serial killer.

A dysfunctional family is almost always an easy target, but what makes this explanation implausible at times is that some serial killers didn't grow up in a dysfunctional family, and those that did, psychiatrist seem conveniently forget to take into account that siblings didn't turn into serial killers, or maybe they did? It's just too simple an answer for us. Way too simple, especially for something as complex as the psychology of a serial killer is psychological.

We've found that the best way to start researching something like this is to start with the fundamentals, and work your way up.

And probably one of the most fundamental of all questions is Nature Vs Nurture.

INT: Nature Vs Nurture

We've always thought that psychology, specifically serial killer psychology, was a product of both genetics and environment. What we didn't know was how important one was over the other. Could genetics (nature) all alone create a serial killer, or could the environment (nurture) do it too, or maybe it's a collaborative effort?

We have two books about that very question that we are right now reading, "Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution" and "Basic Instinct: The Genesis of Behavior", both by Mark S. Blumberg, who seems to be championing the idea that nurturing is way more crucial than nature is in psychological development.

The first round of quotes are from "Freaks of Nature... " To read more about this book, please go to our blog:

The second round are from "Basic Instinct... ": To read a little more about this book, our blog:

We recommend both these books very highly.


"Beyond voyeurism and fine art, freaks provide ready access to some essential truths about the development and evolution of animal form and behavior, and about the individual potential within each of us." [1]

"But it will also become clear that these 'unexpected' novelties are not randomly produced. On the contrary, as Pere Alberch observed, there is a logic to monsters." [2]

"In fact, cyclopia and its associated defects are known collectively as holoprosencephaly, a name that highlights the failure of the forebrain to divide into two separate halves. The incidence of holoprosencephaly may be as hight as 1 in 250 fetuses, but because most of them do not survive term, only about 1 in 16,000 infants are actually born with this condition. In the most severe cases, including cyclopia, nearly all will die within one week." [3]

FROM: "The Morphology of Cosmobia; Speculations Concerning the Significnace of Certain Types of Monsters"
written by Harris Hawthorne Wilder for the "American Journal of Anatomy"
Volume 8, Issue 1, pages 355-440, 1908 (specifically p. 368 for this quote):

"'a cause existing in the germ, or applied during the very early stages of development' through which the full range of monsters could be created artificially." [4]

"By germ, Wilder meant the genetic material contained within sperm and egg." [5]

"Charles Stockard" [6]

"As is so often the case in science, the value of (George) Papaniclolaou's idea projected far beyond Stockard's relatively narrow concerns. Years later, he was to make the serendipitous observation that the vaginal cells of some women are abnormal. He surmised that the presence of such abnormal cells predicts cervical cancer, still one of the leading causes of death among women. Working against an incredulous medical community, he was finally able to publish his findings in a major professional journal in 1941. Papanicolaou's method, originally devised to help Stockard identify guinea pigs in heat, is now known as the Pap smear." [7]

"But time matters. As Stockard demonstrated in a variety of ways, the prodiction of cyclopic and two-headed minnows is limited to a narrow is limited to a narrow window of opportunity - he called them 'moments of supremacy'; today, we generally refer to them as sensitive or critical periods. For example, when Stockard exposed embryonic minnows to cool temperatures, he produced monsters of all kinds - but only if the exposure occurred within the first twenty-four hours after fertilization. In contrast, if Stackard waited more than twenty-four hours, he encountered what he called a 'moment of indifference.' Nothing remarkable happened." [8]

"After ferilization, the first such transformative period is gastrulagtion, a process in which the newly fertilized egg begins to form descernivle layers that will eventually develop into skin, gut, and brain. In addition, the primary axes of the body are established at this time, including the distinction between front and back, and top and bottom. In short, gastrulation is a moment of supremacy - of profound reorganization - of rapid and complex change. It is during gastrulation that embryonic development is most easily disrupted by the kinds of manipulations that Stockard used. Although the result of these manipulations to the embryos is often death, many of those embryos that survive develop abnormally, exhibiting a variety of malformations that includes cyclopia and twinning." [9]

"[H. H.] Wilder was wrong to think that monsters could arise only via a genetic mechanism, encoded in egg or sperm; as Stockard demonstrated, environmental factors can reliably alter the course of development to produce monsters. Still, Wilder was not completely wront for example, as is now known, genetic mutations underlie some cases of cyclopedia, especially those that run in families. Moreover, we should not forget that even environmental factors can produce their effects by modifying the activity of genes or the action of their products.

"In other words, both Wilder and Stockard were right and wrong, their disagreement reflecting an either - or dichotomous mentality concerning the developmental roles of genes environmental. This mentality continues to confuse many people to day.

"But this confusion evaporates by reorienting our thinking. The key is to appreciate that development arises through a network of genetic and nongenetic interactions cascading through time. Within that nertwork, developmental events that rely on a particular gene in one instance can occur through environmental influences in another. As we will examine further in Chapter 5, sex chromosomes are absent in some animals - for example, turtle and crocodiles - but this does not prevent them from developing into males or females.

"In such species, incubation temperature replaces the need for sex chromosomes: We say that the effect of temperature on the developmental network is interchangeable with the genetic mechanism that triggers the same process in, for example, haumans and dogs. Similarly, cyclopia and it's and its related conditions - again, known collectively as holoprosencephaly - can arise through either a genetic mutation or an environmental disturbance (for example, if the mother has diabetes or consumes alcohol), but in either case, the same developmental network is being modified. Clearly, we could be wrong to label all infants with holoprosencephaly as mutants." [10]

"The search for the mechanisms that produced holoprosencephaly in all its forms took its biggest step forward in the 1960s as a result of a cyclopia epidemic among sheep in Utah. [11]


The above are from "Freaks of Nature... "

To us it's all about finding out the truth, getting at the facts, no matter where they takes us, and the fact that somewhere in nature, incubation temperature replaces the need for sex chromosomes, chemicals cause birth defects (cyclopia epidemic in sheep in 1960s Utah. and can overide genetics specific chemical was found to be the cause of a sheep cyclopia epidemic in 1960s Utah.

Something funny is going on here. Maybe the environment has a lot more to do with this than I thought.

Anyway, what the hell does any of this to have to do with serial killer psychology?

Cyclopia? Isn't that a birth defect? Isn't that a "genetics" problem?

You would think so, but surprisongly enough, that is not always the case.

We think

to help support the idea that the environment is very important to growth. It also question the whole idea that genetics is more important than environment and thus the primary mechanism through which organisms survive and mature.

We believe that this is true about psychology also, that the environment in general can also affect psychological development too. In short, evolution not only affects the physical form, but the psychological one also.

One of the most interesting aspects of some of the examples below are how some behaviors (instincts) can be affected by something so totally unrelated to it. There are many more examples, evidence and just plain, easy to understand, information which we found in the two Blumberg books that we read, and would also like to highly recommend that you get and read them both.

The following quotes are from another book by Mark S. Blumberg called "Basic Instinct: The Genesis of Behavior":

"In a related vein, in 'The Ultimate Border Collie', John Holmes defends the belief that instinct is unrelated to intelligence. This view, which has had many supporters and detractors over the years, holds that the herding instinct is no more related to intelligence than the newborn puppy's instinct to attach to its mother's nipple for milk. He writes, 'There is an erronous belief that the more intelligent a dog is, the easier it will be to train. That depends on whether it is willing to learn, in which case intelligence will be a great asset.' On the other hand, 'what intelligence the dog has may be completerly over-ruled by an abnormally strong instinct.' Unfortunately, without clear definitions of intelligence, willingness to learn, and abnormally strong instinct, there is little useful information to be extracted from these sentences. Clarity is sacrificed even further, however, when Holmes describes the occasional situation when a dog stubbornly insists on performing a behavior because 'the instinct 'tells' it to do so.' Given that it refers to the dog, we have here the notion that a dog's instinct tells the dog what to do. Now that is one crazy concept." [12]

"A theme that is developed throughout 'The Animal Mind' concerns the source of the extraordinary animal behaviors that the Goulds describe. As to these authors' view of the nature of this source there can be doubt. In a book comprising approximately 200 pages of text, the terms instinct, innate, and inborn are used over 150 times. To their credit, the authors do attempt to define these terms, but their definitions exhibit the very kind of conflation of multiple meanings and implications that Bateson warns us about. Innate behavior, Gould and Gould write, is 'behavior based on inborn neural circuits. These circuits are responsible for data-processing, decision-making, and orchestrating responses in the absence of previous experience. The 'knowledge' encoded by this genetically specified wiring is commonly called instinct.' Elsewhere, they state that cognition 'can be innate - passive knowledge encoded in an animal's genes and used as instructions for witing a nervous system to generate particular inborn abilities and specializations'" [13]

" ...ethology is a subfield of biology devoted to the study of animal behavior in it's natural context... " [14]

"Over fifty years ago, a group of biologically oriented psychologists, inspired by views of THeodore Schneirla and others, began an assault on the ethological perspective of instincxt promoted by Austrian-born zoologist Konrad Lorenz and his followers. The foundation of this assault was the concept of epigenesis, that is, the view that anatomical, physiological, and behavioral features arise developmentally from the continuous and inextricable interrelations between genes and the environment in which genes are embedded. Contrary to what many believe, adopting the epigenetic perspective does not merely entail the recognition that both nature and nurture are important, but rather that the dichotomy itself is meaningless, tantamount to arguing about whether hurricanes are more wind than water. At the heart of the epigenetic perspective is the notion that all experience - from the chemical environment of the first embryonic cell to the social environment in which the organism develops and lives - is essential for the journey from fertilized egg to fully realized organism. "Although a few ethologists took the epigenetic criticism to heart and performed experiments showing that some iconic instincts (such as pecking in newly hatched chicks) are altered by developmental experience, and although psychologist have provided powerful demonstrations of the reliance of some instincts on prenatal or prehatching experience (as we will see in Chapter 5), many ethologists pay only llip service to these issues and continue to invoke the concept of instinct as an innate, hardwired, programmed, and immutable form of behavior." [15]

"For example, the so-called maternal instinct of female rats to retrieve a straying pup can be eliminated by rearing the mother with powdered food, thereby depriving her of the normal experience of handling objects (such as food pellets). Even more bizzare is the finding that the profound fear of snakes exhibited by Japanese macaques, considered an instinct in monkeys as well as humans, relies on the monkey having gained early developmental experience handling and eating live insects; or that newly hatched chicks that are prevented from seeing their toes are less likely to consume mealworms! Few such examples exist because they are so strange - so nonobvious - but the fact that they exist at all should give pause to those of us who expect to find simple, rational, obvious, one-to-one relationships between instinctive behaviours in adults and their developmental precursors in infants." [16]

"Long before anyone imagined the existence of genes, scientist struggled to understand the nature of inheritance: How do traits pass from one generation to the next? What is the material basis of heredity? Do our individual life experiences pass to our children, or do our children only inherit that which we inherited? Many wrong turns were made until Gregor Mendel's work on the rules of ingeritance - originally conducted in the mid-nineteenth century - was broough to the attention of mainstream biologists in 1900. The flurry of activity that ensued was duzzying. Within the next ten years, the words gene and genetics had entered our vocabulary. In 1953, the structure of the genetic material was identified as DNA. Soon thereafter, the so-called genetic code was broken. In the 1960s, the genetic revolution joined forces with the computer revolution and the analogy between genes and computer program was introduced. In 1976, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins took an uncostrained metaphor to the logical extreme in The Selfish Gene. In 1997, Dolly the sheep was cloned. And in 2001, the new millennium began with the completion of the first phase of the Human Genome Project." [17]

"To move beyond Sagan's overly optimistic view of the powers of DNA and toward Stent's more balanced and realistic perspective, it is necessary to dispense with some cherished but misleading notions regarding genes and gene expression. One such notion is the 'central dogma' of molecular biology, first formulated in 1957, which envisioned a tidy, linear process governing the translation of the genetic code in protein. One gene, one protein - or so we thought. As we now know, the process that governs the translation of the genetic code into protein is so convoluted and context dependent that not only can a single segment of DNA contribute to the production of many different proteins, there are even proteins that cannot be traced to the code within and single segment of DNA. Evelyn Fox Keller has written that these recent findings, taken together, 'threaten to throw the very concept of 'the gene' - either as a unit of structure or as a unit of function - into blatant disarray.' To help us appreciate the magnitude of this disarray, she employs the following musical analogy: The 'problem is not only that the music incsriberd in the score does not exist until it is played, but that the players rewrite the score... in their very execution of it.'" [18]

"For even before the historic report of DNA's structure in 1953 by Watson and Crick, it was well known that every cell in the body - brain cell, liver cell, skin cell - contains an identical complement of DNA." [19]

"The key, then, to understanding what it is that genes do is to begin to see them as just a part of the machine. Not the brains. Not the brawn. Not even as privileged or exclusive repositories of information." [20]

"DNA, as commonly understood, contains information in the form of a code that the cell uses to build amino acids and complex proteins. But although this is where the contribution of the gene ends, the realization of the protein's function is only beginning because proteiunbs do not achieve their function in the one-dimensional, linear world of a genetic code. Rather, proteins must first contort themselves into a complex three-dimensional structure whose final form bears no programmatic relationship to DNA. In other words, the limited value of the information provided by DNA is evident at the earliest stage of gene expression. [21]


It's pretty obvious to us that developmental (and thus environmental) growth maybe more of a key here than that plain old genetics works better alone, without a partner, kind of bad science thinking that gets no one any where, real fast, in the research field anyway.

If you take the computer analogy to its logical conclusion and genetics is the computer program, than the user can be considered an environmental element also.

We take that one step further and think, when all is said and done, that genetics is just a wannabe computer program that aspires to being more than just the basic machine code that it is and upon which the OS (Operating System) rides and also what allows it to communicate with all the hardware and software attached to it.

Machine code is important, but it's no better than the OS or computer program (software) that rides on it, and also, no better than the environment (or the user) that it grows up in.


INT: What's Next?

As a result of all the anti-genetic examples above, we decided that we now need to look at the other side of the coin and see what the geneticist have to say in response to this.

Even after all of that, we still think genetics plays an important role in psychological development. Since cyclopia is caused by the brain not dividing correctly, what if it also causes psychological abnormalities?

That's our theory anyway, that along with cyclopia, psychology is also affected by how the brain develops. In short, there's a theory out there that long term memory is somehow hardwired into the brain. And there is also evidence that, since specific areas of the brain control certain body functions, then psychologically speaking, specific areas of the brain can also control specific kind of long term memories, and let's also explore the idea that because of this theoretical hardwiring, you have to keep certain memory areas away from each other so that two contrary (opposite or competing) memories don't get the chance to hardwire themselves together.

What kind of holy hell would happen then? Maybe nothing or maybe something beyond our understanding like, at least for now anyway, the psychology of a serial killer.

We also want to explore what the different psychological markers are that are important to psychological growth and survival.

That's what we got going on right now. Stop back in when you get the chance and check out our progress.


INT: Hardwiring The Brain




9999: XXX-99 -  - 

9999: XXX-99 [XXX]




Basic Instinct: The Genesis of Behavior
                    Copyright © 2005 by Mark S. Blumberg

Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution
                    Copyright © 2009 by Mark S. Blumberg


[1] Freaks of Nature... , p. 17.
      [2] ibid., p. 54.
      [3] ibid., p. 56-57.
      [4] ibid., p. 65.
      [5] ibid., p. 66.
      [6] ibid., p. 67.
      [7] ibid., p. 68.
      [8] ibid., p. 78.
      [9] ibid., p. 80.
     [10] ibid., p. 81-82.
     [11] ibid., p. 83.
     [12] Basic Instinct... , p. 7.
     [13] ibid., p. 12.
     [14] ibid., p. 14.
     [15] ibid., p. 14-15.
     [16] ibid., p. 16-17.
     [17] ibid., p. 43-44.
     [18] ibid., p. 44-45.
     [19] ibid., p. 45.
     [20] ibid., p. 45.
     [21] ibid., p. 46.




LAST UPDATED: December 29, 2010
by myself and Caty.