Several historical examples are given that indicate that people taken prisoner appear to psychically freeze and/or become compliant to their captors, even when death at the captors' hands is imminent and when small numbers of captors make escape a real possibility. It is argued that: freezing is a normative response to apparently inescapable capture; ‘escapability’ of capture is underestimated as a result of freezing; and rebellion is rare. Psychological theories of this psychic freezing include: 1) social psychological explanations of learned helplessness in prisoners; 2) trauma reactions of dissociation and numbing; and 3) studies from affective neuroscience suggesting freezing is a brain response to a perceived inescapable attack and may be related to hiding.
Turan, S. and Dutton, D. (2010), "Psychic freezing to lethal malevolent authority", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 2 No. 3, pp. 4-15. https://doi.org/10.5042/jacpr.2010.0332
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