NEW YORK – The series of mass killings across the globe poses a challenge for experts trying to analyze them without lapsing into faulty generalizations. Terms like contagion and copycat killing apply in some cases, not in others, they say, and in certain instances perpetrators' terrorist ideology intersects with psychological instability.
Some of the attacks, such as the assault on multiple targets in Paris last November, were elaborately planned operations by Islamic State adherents. However, they may have contributed to other attacks by troubled individuals with no established ties to the militant group.
J. Reid Meloy, a San Diego-based forensic psychologist who has served as a consultant to the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Program, said some of the attackers appear to have identified with Islamic State as an outlet for their own seething emotions.