The FBI's terms of
organized and disorganized are often used in the literature to describe
crime scene behaviors and correlating characteristics of an offender when
creating a profile. However, years before the FBI began using these
terms, Karl Menninger and Martin Mayman wrote an article that described
aggressive behavior, which also used the terms organized and disorganized.
This article will briefly discuss the similarities.
The FBI began using the terms organized and disorganized to describe
offenders that demonstrated psychopathology during the commission of their
crimes. Rather than using the terms psychopathic or psychotic, the FBI
chose to use organized and disorganized respectively to describe offenders.
This ultimately allowed them to describe the psychopath or psychotic
offender without using psychological jargon. Ressler et al. (1988)
describe the organized offender as an individual who plans the offense to
optimize control of the victim and situation, while the disorganized
offender does not pre-plan and attacks suddenly to overpower the victim.
Menninger and Mayman (1956) used the terms organized and disorganized to
describe episodic dyscontrol in aggressive individuals. Organized
aggression is committed by sociopathic or psychopathic individuals because
as Menninger and Mayman write, "Such behavior is not disorganized; it often
seems most shrewdly and wickedly organized and devised; hence it does not
seem 'crazy' to the average citizen" (p. 158). Menninger and Mayman continue
by stating, "In the disorganized 'idiopathic' type, the break with reality
is obvious in the chaotic nature of the outburst, even to the loss of
consciousness and memory" (p. 157). These individuals are identified
as being an impulsive criminal, and their behavior equivalent to a
convulsive release of energy in a primitive disorganized manner.
Note: (Frederic Wertham (1949) is cited in this article to demonstrate that
individuals often do not report or understand the true motivation for their
aggression. Wertham's catathymic crisis (1937) has been mentioned in
relatively current literature (Sears, 1991) as a theory for serial murder.)
Profiling is a relatively new tool to criminal investigations, yet as one
can see, the foundation for describing offenders in a FBI profile
(organized/disorganized) has been around for quite some time. This article
was written to introduce the reader to another reference for understanding
the violent offender, and although the reference is quite dated, the idea
still lives on today.
Menninger, K. & Mayman, M. (1956). Episodic dyscontrol: A third order
stress adaptation. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 20 (4), 153-165.
Ressler, R.K., Burgess, A.W. & Douglas, J.E. (1988). Sexual homicide:
Patterns and motives.
Sears, D.J. (1991). To kill again: The motivation and development of
serial murder. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources.
Wertham, F. (1937). The catathymic crisis: A Clinical Entity. Archives of
Neurology and Psychiatry, 37,974-978.
Wertham, F. (1949). The show of violence. New York, NY: Doubleday.