Stockholm Syndrome

6 June 2016

Stockholm syndrome, or capture–bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.[1][2] The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 27% of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome.[3]

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Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”[4] One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual’s response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be a threat.[5]

Battered-person syndrome is an example of activating the capture–bonding psychological mechanism, as are military basic training and fraternity bonding by hazing.[dubious – discuss].[6][7][8]

In the view of evolutionary psychology, “the mind is a set of information-processing machines that were designed by natural selection to solve adaptive problems faced by our hunter–gatherer ancestors.”[14]

One of the “adaptive problems faced by our hunter–gatherer ancestors,” particularly females, was being abducted by another band. Life in the human “environment of evolutionary adaptiveness” (EEA) is thought by researchers such as Azar Gat to be similar to that of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies. “Deadly violence is also regularly activated in competition over women. . . . Abduction of women, rape, . . . are widespread direct causes of reproductive conflict. . . .”[15] I.e., being captured[16] and having their dependent children killed might have been fairly common.[17] Women who resisted capture in such situations risked being killed.[18]

Azar Gat argues that war and abductions (capture) were typical of human pre-history.[15] When selection is intense and persistent, adaptive traits (such as capture–bonding) become universal to the population or species. (See Selection.)

Partial activation of the capture–bonding psychological trait may lie behind battered-wife syndrome, military basic training, fraternity hazing, and sex practices such as sadism/masochism or bondage/discipline.[6] Being captured by neighboring tribes was a relatively common event for women in human history, if anything like the recent history of the few remaining primitive tribes. In some of those tribes (Yanomamo, for instance) practically everyone in the tribe is descended from a captive within the last three generations. Perhaps as high as one in ten of females were abducted and incorporated into the tribe that captured them

In June 2012, at the 9th International Conference Developments in Economic Theory and Policy, in Bilbao, by the Department of Applied Economics V of the University of the Basque Country (Spain) and the Cambridge Centre for Economic and Public Policy, Department of Land Economy of the University of Cambrdge (United Kingdom), the concept of Stockholm syndrome was introduced in economics referring to governments that have been “kidnapped” by financial capital because of their need to refinance public debt. They are coerced into accepting high interest rates and conditions that compromise their sovereignty

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