PhD Oral Exam - Lee Mellor, Individualized Program
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Before the late-Industrial age, a minority of murderers posed their victims’ corpses to convey a message. With the rise of mass media, such offenders also began sending verbal communications to journalists and the authorities. Unsurprisingly, the 21st century has seen alienated killers promote their violent actions and homicidal identities through online communications: from VLOGs to manifestos, even videos depicting murder and corpse mutilation. Though the decentralization of media has provided an easily-accessible platform for violent offenders, such communications also afford law enforcement the opportunity to better investigate and prevent these crimes. To this end, qualitative research was conducted on a sample of 10 such offenders.
The results revealed that they suffer from a chronically volatile self-concept with resulting negative-emotionality owing to deficient childhood socialization and strains related to sexuality, gender, and vocation. These characteristics emerged again in a quantitative study of 20 similar offenders. As the psychologist, Higgins, and sociologist, Mead, have shown that our self-concept arises and is negotiated through communication, these homicidal expressions provide the killer with a tenable identity, temporarily or permanently eliminating their emotional turmoil. Far from mere attention-seeking, these killers are desperately striving for a self. Their malaise is exacerbated by our increasingly anomic and isolating society—the mid-stages of Baudrillard's 'hyperreality'—where the 'real' and 'unreal' are becoming indistinguishable. Together, these observations form the bedrock of the expressive/transformative theory of violence (ETV). By highlighting the link between semiotics and psychology in the context of our media-saturated society, ETV provides a methodology for interpreting homicidal communications, allowing law enforcement and mental health professionals to strengthen criminal profiles, link crimes, and form investigative strategies; as well as aiding in pre- and post-homicidal risk assessment.