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Does fear explain the attraction of women towards male serial killers?

Project by Polygence alum Noor

Does fear explain the attraction of women towards male serial killers?

Project's result

This research provides a new perspective to the study of hybristophilia. Under the three approaches proposed, fear was considered as a primary contributing factor to the attraction of women towards male serial killers. By using the Extended Parallel Process Model, Excitation Transfer Theory, and Recreational Fear, a link was studied between fear and the romantic interest towards serial killers, much like Theodore Robert Bundy. This link is unique to the field and addresses the literature gap in the study of hybristophilia. An important finding observed is the inclusion of fear of crime and victimization in the explanation which can be generalized beyond the case mentioned. With the increase in reporting and screening of crimes through different forms of media, one can assume this fear is predicted to grow, especially among women. This research points at a peculiar negative consequence of the prevailing fear of crime, which is the public infatuation towards criminals. Knowing this, what could be made of the future? A society with lack of empathy towards victims and growing interest towards the violent offenders.

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My research aims to factor fear in the explanation of women's romantic attraction toward male serial killers while considering the case of a high-profile serial killer, Theodore Robert Bundy. Bundy gained an unfortunate amount of fame following the kidnapping, rape, and murder of 30 women. Much of this fame constitutes romantic gestures exhibited by the female population. The reality opened doors to scientific research, many of which based the public infatuation on personality traits, fantasy-oriented behaviors, and belief systems. None recognized fear associated with the serial killer responsible for the phenomenon. This literature review will look at fear as a contributor to romantic interest in individuals, much like Bundy, under four approaches: 1) the fear appeal generated from media coverage of the serial killer and the extended parallel process model influence (fear control) on the female audience, 2) the physiological arousal triggered in response to fear and love; using the similarity to introduce concepts of misattribution of arousal and excitation transfer theory, 3) the co-existence of fear and enjoyment in the explanation of recreational fear , and 4) the alternative biological explanation, supported by recent studies on the dual role of oxytocin (eliciting fear along with its previous known function as a love hormone). The approaches will extract support from grounded existing studies and reasoning by inserts of real-world examples from Bundy's case. The detailed conclusion of the review will follow, along with its possible implication in the field of research on attraction toward dangerous individuals, hybristophilia, while adding a new perspective.



Polygence mentor

MA Master of Arts candidate


Social Science, Psychology, Neuroscience


Neuropsychology and Social Psychology





Beaconhouse College Campus Gulberg

Graduation Year


Project review

“My journey went smoothly due to the support of my mentor. She was also very considerate.”

About my mentor

“My mentor made sure I understood every concept, even if it meant repeating the same things .”