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Psychic freezing to lethal malevolent authority

Serbulent Turan (Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, Canada)
Donald Dutton (Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Canada)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 6 July 2010



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.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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