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The Mindset of an Active Shooter

The Mindset of an Active Shooter is usually a quest for significance. That need gets activated when someone feels the loss of significance, the sense of being slighted, humiliated, or excluded.


A 2020 review of mass shootings incidents between 2010 and 2019 found that 78% of mass shooters in that period were motivated by fame-seeking or attention-seeking- that is, by the quest for significance.


Two factors can push this ordinary human striving into mayhem and destruction are:


  1. Significance: First, it takes extreme heights of significance, craving to pay this high a price for potential notoriety. Shooting is a radical act that demands self-sacrifice, not only giving up on acceptance in mainstream society but also producing a high likelihood of dying in shootouts with law enforcement.

  2. Rejection: Secondly, the shooter usually feels a deep sense of rejection, humiliation, and exclusion; they believe they or their group suffered at the hands of some real or imagined culprits. These feelings can create a one-track significance focus that can ultimately precipitate a mass shooting.


Committing a mass shooting represents a widely available shortcut to "stardom."


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The Conversation

Published: April 13th, 2023

Arie Kruglanski, University of Maryland




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