What is it about?

The paper found that fame-seeking mass shooters — as opposed to those predominantly motivated by personal grievance or revenge, for example — carefully craft their attacks in ways that set them apart from previous incidents to gain more fame. We collected and analyzed data from 189 mass shootings between 1966 and 2021, and used methods from information theory to quantitatively demonstrate that fame-seeking mass shooters plan their crimes around the novelty of their location and targets. Our findings support that this novel behavior brings added fame to mass shooters.

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Why is it important?

Mass shootings perpetrated by shooters seeking fame are the most lethal and, likely, the least understood. Our work elucidates the modus operandi of fame-seeking mass shooters and provides new insights about the novelty of their attacks that can contribute to two important preventative strategies: red flag laws and how the media covers these atrocities. First, fame seekers frequently make their intentions known prior to acting, making red flag laws crucial to prevent that sort of crime. Second, the media establishes what is “normal” by including precise details about the locations and targets in news stories creating a pattern that fame-seekers can work against. Our findings warn against the presentation of excessive details by the media, in agreement with the No Notoriety campaign.


This project was particularly important to me because it combines my passion for data and engineering while also addressing a topic that has a special personal interest to me. I hope that by reading this paper, people will become more aware of the warning signs displayed by mass shooters.

Maurizio Porfiri
New York University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Fame through surprise: How fame-seeking mass shooters diversify their attacks, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2216972120.
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