Those mass shooters who are after notoriety typically design their attacks as “surprises,” making them distinct from other mass shootings.
This is one of the main conclusions of a recent study from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering on the subset of U.S. mass shooters for whom fame is a guiding motivation. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) released the study.
Data from 189 mass shootings between 1966 and 2021 was analyzed by a team of researchers led by Maurizio Porfiri, NYU Tandon Institute Professor and Director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), who found that fame seekers—as opposed to those predominantly motivated by personal grievance or revenge, for example—planned their crimes around the novel nature of the location and targets.
“Fame is sought in many ways, such as attempting to be deadlier or leaving behind manifestos for the public to read,” the study’s authors stated in their report.
“Here, we apply the information-theoretic concept of “surprisal” to elucidate the modus operandi of fame-seekers. Our results demonstrate that these individuals carefully plan their attacks to be different from past shooters and that the tendency to deviate from history is, in fact, rewarded by fame,” the authors also stated.
“These findings warn against the presentation of excessive details by the media toward responsible reporting of mass shootings and offer insight into the pursuit of Red Flag laws and validation of potential threats, against all odds.”