Do Serial Killers Have High IQs?

Diabolical geniuses – this is how books, TV shows, and movies have been depicting serial killers for many years now.

But the million-dollar question is, do serial killers really have high IQs?

Sure, serial killers with above-average intelligence exist(ed), but not all of them fit into this category.

Edmund Kemper who killed 10 people, including his own mother and grandparents was reported to have an IQ of 145. However, he was not the rule, but only an exception.

What is the Average IQ of Serial Killers?

It has been revealed that serial killers have an average IQ of 94.5 with 86 as the median. These figures were deduced from 4,743 serial killers as revealed by the database Serial Killer Information Center developed by two universities for collection and regular update of data on serial killers. The website was last updated in 2016.

The average intelligence of serial killers is between an IQ of 90 and 110. The study recommends that in general, serial killers actually have lower IQs.

Why are Serial Killers Assumed to Have High IQ?

The author behind “The Big Book of Serial Killers: 150 Serial Killer Files of the World’s Worst Murderers,” Jack Rosewood, claimed that the common misconception about serial killers being all genius might have come from the fact that those few highly intelligent ones such as Ted Bundy, Rodney Alcala, and Jeffrey Dahmer, are found to be more fascinating to the eyes of the general public. As a result, these serial killers are more talked about and studied than others.

This and the fact that TV shows and movies rarely create good storylines about not-so-smart serial killers while intelligent killers such as Dexter Morgan and Hannibal Lecter make for unique entertainment also helped shape these stereotypes.

The more intelligent serial killers might have done better in their lives if they used their intelligence for good things. Unfortunately, most of the time, they lacked motivation. It was reported that Bundy’s IQ was 136 but still he was a school dropout and even worked several minimum salary jobs. Bundy was also described as someone who lacked ambition.

Another good example is Dahmer whose IQ was reported to be higher at 144. Teenage Dahmer was also very charismatic and even got clearance for him and his two classmates to visit the White House during Washington D.C. field trip.

But despite his confidence and intelligence, Dahmer failed to succeed as a professional. He had a drinking problem that caused him to be discharged from the army. Later on, he was also fired from his night shift job at a chocolate factory.

It seems that most high IQ people have an issue with motivation. Society may not see Bundy and Dahmer as successful, but they were definitely above average in the one thing that motivated them, and this is none other than killing.

Having said all this, it might be safe to say that not all serial killers have high IQs. This means that the likes of Dexter Morgan and Hannibal Lecter are nothing but myths. 

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