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Stockholm Syndrome

By Wikipedia

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological state in which the victims of a kidnapping, or persons detained against their free will prisoners develop a relationship with their captor(s). This solidarity can sometimes become a real complicity, with prisoners actually helping the captors to achieve their goals or to escape police.

Overview

The syndrome develops out of the victim's attempts to relate to his or her captor or gain the kidnapper's sympathy. According to the FBI's Hostage/Barricade System database, 92 percent (PDF) of the victims of such incidents reportedly showed no aspect of the Stockholm syndrome--probably because most captures do not last long enough.

The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm in which the robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to 28, 1973. In this case, the victims kept on defending their captors even after their six-day physical detention was over. They showed a reticent behavior in the following legal procedures. The term was coined by the criminologist and psychologist Nils Bejerot, who assisted the police during the robbery, and referred to the syndrome in a news broadcast. It was then picked up by many psychologists worldwide.

The syndrome is related to bride capture and similar topics in cultural anthropology.

Famous instances

Stockholm syndrome is not generally a formal diagnosis. Nevertheless, the elements of sympathy and even proactive support can be seen in cases like these:

  • Patty Hearst, who after having been a hostage of the Symbionese Liberation Army, joined the group in a bank robbery. Hearst did not recover for several months after she was arrested with some of her captors. She was convicted and imprisoned for her actions in the robbery, though her sentence was commuted and she later received a Presidential pardon.
  • Elizabeth Smart, a girl kidnapped and sexually abused by a mentally ill man who treated her as his wife; Smart spent many months living on the streets of Salt Lake, physically unrestrained
  • Japanese abducted by North Korea (for the purposes of teaching Japanese language and culture)

Stockholm syndrome in evolutionary psychology

Evolutionary psychologists have posited a theory involving natural selection, and psychological responses to capture or kidnapping. In this theory, capture-bonding, or social reorientation after capture, was an essential survival trait for millions of years. The captives who reoriented would survive, and pass their genetic code to future generations. Those who did not form social bonds with captors would be killed. In this theory, when escape was not possible, giving up and adjusting to the new group would be good for genetic survival. Over evolutionary times, genes would become more common if the genes built brains/minds able to dump previous emotional attachments when captured and forge new social bonds to the captors.

An evolutionary psychology explanation for Stockholm syndrome suggests that our ancestors are those who gave up and joined the tribe that had captured them (and sometimes had killed most of their relatives). This selection of our ancestors--perhaps as high as ten percent per generation--accounts for the extreme forms of capture-bonding seen in the Kreditbanken robbery and the Patty Hearst capture/abuse.

Capture-bonding as a powerful evolved psychological trait in humans may also account for the bonding in military basic training ("training is a mildly traumatic experience intended to produce a bond"), sexual bondage practices and fraternity hazing as well as battered wife syndrome, where beatings and abuse are observed to generate seemingly paradoxical bonds between the victim and the abuser.

 

 

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STOCKHOLM

Stockholm Norrmalmstorg drama. Image taken by the police with a camera drilled through the roof to the main vault.


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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from this Wikipedia article, which is probably more up to date than ours (retrieved August 12, 2005).

With the exception of the Wikipedia article above, everything else is...


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