Psychology Perspectives: Columbine Massacre

Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
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Perspectives of Psychology: Understanding the Columbine Massacre In Psychology, there are perspectives and approaches that are looked into when trying to understand how the intricate human mind works. These perspectives are respectfully derived from different ideas and time periods, exemplifying different ways of thinking. These perspectives include: sociocultural, biopsychological, psychodynamic, behaviorism, cognitive, and humanism. These approaches are critically essential in solving something as serious as murder, or simply even why someone acts the way they do.

There are many instances where there will be shocking news stories about people committing murders—people that are so unexpected to do such harm. However, when the six perspectives are properly enforced, we can infer and comprehend the situation and reasoning. These handy tactics and knowledge help us understand the underlying core reasons for even the most bizarre and deadliest cases such as the Columbine High School Massacre. This massacre is the world’s deadliest high school shooting that was embarked by two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

The pair initially intended to kill thousands of students, however the bomb did not go off as planned. Unfortunately, the malicious killers managed to kill twelve students, one teacher, and greatly injured 21 helpless students. Not only did they engage in such acts, but once they were satisfied with their spree, they committed suicide. This tragic event was greatly televised as it forced schools around the country to enforce strict laws of security.

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The unbelievable acts of Eric and Dylan left everyone with many questions as to why these seemingly normal students would take the lives of so many, and also themselves. However, we begin to understand how deceiving looks can be as we deeply examine past the superficial surface of these two killers. A modern perspective in psychology is the sociocultural perspective, which accordingly combines two fields of study: social psychology, which is the study of social roles, actions, relationships; and cultural psychology, which is the study of cultural norms, values, and expectations.

These are closely tied due to the fact that they are both about the effect that people have on one another, either individually or in a larger group as a broad culture (Peplau&Taylor, 1997). In short, First of all, sociocultural is a modern approach where culture, race, genders, and backgrounds are studied closely to better understand behavior. This sociocultural perspective is evident in this case, because according to psychologists, Kimmel and Mahler, the two shooters were white males who did not project the male gender roles other students possessed.

According to USA Today, the shooters, Harris and Klebold, were seen as outcasts due to their unusual behavior and inability to conform to society. Harris and Klebold allegedly created a website on how to commit crimes varying from theft to something as dangerous as bomb explosions. Both Kleboid and Harris were victims of bullying. I am driven to believe their unacceptance to society and perhaps their culture, enticed them to go on a killing spree. Also, I believe the violent messages sent by heavy metal music, violent televised movies and shows, and other subcultures also served as a factor for the massacre.

More often than not, psychologists ponder on whether chemical imbalances can really affect the way a person acts and thinks, and how it can affect their lifestyle. This perspective is known as the biopsychological perspective. This perspective is also fairly modern, as it focuses on influences of hormones, brain sructures and chemicals, and diesaease. This being said, this approach is strictly thought that human and animal behavior is seen as a result from events going on inside the body (Ciccarelli, 2012). According to journalist, Dave Cullen of the New York Times, Dylan Kleboid was diagnosed with depression.

The biological approach can be well implied in this situation because as stated earlier, his chemical imbalances acted as a hindrance in his life, creating more reason and desire to kill others, and also kill himself. The next theory is categorized as a less-modern perspective as it goes all the way back to the Victorian Era. This approach is based on Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychodynamic, which focuses on the role of the unconscious mind and its influence on conscious behavior, early childhood experiences, development of sense of self, and other motivations. Ciccarelli, 2012). In other words, this theory states that humans have an unconscious mind in which we repress all of our threatening urges and desires into. In effect of repressing urges, it creates nervous disorders. This approach greatly stresses the importance of early childhood experiences. I firmly believe that both boys, especially Klebold, repressed their urges and thoughts which created a dramatic lash-out. According to New York Times, Klebold had come from a very well educated family that had very high expectations for him.

His childhood had been constricted to studying and since he was exposed to such lifestyle at such a young age, he grew accustomed to better his education. Kleboid showed no obvious signs of danger to his family, as he valued how he appeared to his parents. However though, he had a great drinking problem which caused major aggression. Harris, Klebold’s good friend, was greatly interested in creating bombs. His childhood was not like Klebold’s—his family was not as forceful of his studies, or close. Harris was diagnosed with depression—leading him to have suicidal thoughts.

According to At the time of his death, he had unbelievable Luvox levels in his system. According to psychiatrist, Peter Breggin, these medications very likely have contributed to Harris's actions. Harris had been meticulously planning bombings but did not have the means of creating one. That is where his good friend and brains of the pair, Klebold, comes into play. The two boys’ lives are well exemplified and reinforced by the psychodynamic approach, as their childhood seemed to shape their lives as they grew older. The next approach is the behavioral perspective.

This perspective is based on the early work of Watson and Skinner. Behaviorism concludes that the science of behavior must be directly seen and observed to be validated. This being said, we must ignore “consciousness” and focus on observable behavior. This approach is shown by the pair because both boys had been convicted of breaking into a van and stealing computers. According to Wikipedia. org, after breaking into the van, Harris blogged: "Why shouldn't we, the gods, have the right to break into a van that some mother***** left in the middle of nowhere?! This clearly shows the behavior of the boys that can be observed, not inferred. This behavior is very violent, and it is clear that the boys show no remorse or guilt for their wrong-doings. Another less modern approach would be the cognitive approach. This approach focuses on memory, intelligence, perception, thought processes, problem solving, language, and learning (Cicarelli, 2012). This perspective can be applied to Harris and Kleboid’s sitatuation by looking into their background and how that affects their thought processes and learning skills.

As mentioned earlier, Kleboid was clearly bright. He was capable of creating bombs (although the bombings were unsuccessful) and devising a master plan. He carefully planned out the steps of what was happening. How can we be so sure? According to Time Magazine, Kleboid and Harris had been writing their step by step ways of creating a bomb. Not only so, but they clearly showed intent of killing thousands of students. I believe that this shows the boys had planned out a meticulous plan, also acknowledging the consequences, therefore decided to kill themselves at the very end.

At last, we have the Humanistic approach. This approach focuses on human potential, free will, and responsibility. This approach is sought to highlight human values and self-actualization. Humanism proposes that the deeds we do in life are not driven by childhood experiences, influences, cultural background, genetics, or chemical imbalances; but rather, it is driven by our will to be defined as a good or bad person. This perspective focuses on our underlying core values solely as individuals. This perspective can best be shown through the level of intellect the boys have.

According to The Guardian, the boys have shown academic proficiency for a good part of their high school career. They were gifted in computer work, and were in charge of technical duties for school plays. With this being said, I believe the boys understood that their behavior is solely determined by their own will to be the type of person they aspire to be. Needless to say, I believe the boys were greatly influenced by their cultural background and society, but however, I also strongly believe Kleboid and Harris were intelligent enough to make their own decisions—engaging in good or bad behavior, reflecting their human values.

Psychology is a very broad subject filled with endless questions and theories. These perspectives, however, are greatly established and used on a day-by-day basis by not only psychologists, but investigators and sociologists as well. These perspectives help to understand and widen our knowledge of humans and animals. The six perspectives are all derived from different time periods—varying from modern to not-so-modern theories and ideas. The perspectives help address problems and help widen critical thinking abilities, as well as understanding everyday behavior.

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Psychology Perspectives: Columbine Massacre. (2017, Jan 28). Retrieved from

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