Fame through surprise: How fame-seeking mass shooters diversify their attacks

Rayan Succar, Roni Barak Ventura, Maxim Belykh, Sihan Wei, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mass shootings are becoming more frequent in the United States, as we routinely learn from the media about attempts that have been prevented or tragedies that destroyed entire communities. To date, there has been limited understanding of the modus operandi of mass shooters, especially those who seek fame through their attacks. Here, we explore whether the attacks of these fame-seeking mass shooters were more surprising than those of others and clarify the link between fame and surprise in mass shootings. We assembled a dataset of 189 mass shootings from 1966 to 2021, integrating data from multiple sources. We categorized the incidents in terms of the targeted population and shooting location. We measured “surprisal” (often known as “Shannon information content”) with respect to these features, and we scored fame from Wikipedia traffic data—a commonly used metric of fame. Surprisal was significantly higher for fame-seeking mass shooters than non-fame-seeking ones. We also registered a significant positive correlation between fame and surprisal controlling for the number of casualties and injured victims. Not only do we uncover a link between fame-seeking behavior and surprise in the attacks but also we demonstrate an association between the fame of a mass shooting and its surprise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2216972120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 16 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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