Psychology Today: 'Marked for Mayhem'

Psychology Today: 'Marked for Mayhem'

This is a discussion on Psychology Today: 'Marked for Mayhem' within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; Anxiety Marked for Mayhem Street criminals are selective about their victims. Unfortunately, many of us unwittingly give off signals that mark us as easy targets. ...

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Thread: Psychology Today: 'Marked for Mayhem'

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array Janq's Avatar
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    Psychology Today: 'Marked for Mayhem'

    Marked for Mayhem
    Street criminals are selective about their victims. Unfortunately, many of us unwittingly give off signals that mark us as easy targets.

    By Chuck Hustmyre, Jay Dixit, published on January 01, 2009 - last reviewed on March 30, 2009

    Midnight in New Orleans. Lisa Z. was walking home from the French Quarter hotel where she works when three men stepped around a corner and stopped in front of her. When she tried to cross the street to get away, the men charged after her. "One guy clotheslined me," she recalls, "then choked me, threw me on the sidewalk, and jammed a chrome, snub-nosed .38 revolver against my cheekbone." Lisa was kicked, robbed, and then told not to move or she'd be shot in the face.

    The men who robbed her likely chose Lisa because she unknowingly sent out signals that marked her as a "soft" target. Alone and encumbered by a backpack, she appeared to be a vulnerable person who could be easily controlled. "Some of these guys concentrate on people who are easy to overcome," says Volkan Topalli, a psychologist and criminologist at Georgia State University. "They'll target females, they'll target older people, but they're also looking for cues of weakness or fear."

    Criminals, like their victims, come in all varieties, but researchers have found that they don't choose their victims randomly. There's a reason FBI agents begin crime investigations by creating profiles of victims. It's because the identity of victims—particularly if there are several victims with differing characteristics—helps investigators determine whether a criminal is targeting a specific kind of person or choosing victims opportunistically.

    In the field of victimology, one of the central concepts is that of the "risk continuum"—there are degrees of risk for a type of crime based on your career, lifestyle, relationships, movements, and even personality, aspects of which are manifest in your behavior and demeanor. Some factors that make people potential victims are obvious—flashing wads of cash, wearing expensive jewelry, walking alone on back streets. Others are subtler, including posture, walking style, even the ability to read facial expressions.

    The cues add up to what David Buss terms "exploitability." An evolutionary psychologist at the University of Texas, Buss is examining a catalogue of traits that seem to invite some people to exploit others. There's cheatability (cues you can be duped in social exchange), sexual-exploitability (cues you can be sexually manipulated), as well as mugability, robability, killability, stalkability, and even sexual-assaultability. "As adaptations for exploitation evolved, so did defenses to prevent being exploited—wariness toward strangers, cheater-detection sensitivities, and possibly anti-rape defenses," explains Buss. "These defenses, in turn, created selection pressure for additional adaptations for exploitation designed to circumvent victim defenses. This co-evolutionary arms race can continue indefinitely."

    Nowhere does victimology imply that people who stand out as easy targets are to blame for becoming victims. Predators bear sole responsibility for the crimes they commit—and should be held accountable and punished accordingly. Moreover, many attacks are random, and no amount of vigilance could deter them. Whether victims are selected randomly or targeted because of specific characteristics, they bear no responsibility for crimes against them. But by being aware of which cues criminals look for, we can reduce the risk of becoming targets ourselves.
    What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

    In a classic study, researchers Betty Grayson and Morris I. Stein asked convicted criminals to view a video of pedestrians walking down a busy New York City sidewalk, unaware they were being taped. The convicts had been to prison for violent offenses such as armed robbery, rape, and murder.

    Within a few seconds, the convicts identified which pedestrians they would have been likely to target. What startled the researchers was that there was a clear consensus among the criminals about whom they would have picked as victims—and their choices were not based on gender, race, or age. Some petite, physically slight women were not selected as potential victims, while some large men were.

    The researchers realized the criminals were assessing the ease with which they could overpower the targets based on several nonverbal signals—posture, body language, pace of walking, length of stride, and awareness of environment. Neither criminals nor victims were consciously aware of these cues. They are what psychologists call "precipitators," personal attributes that increase a person's likelihood of being criminally victimized.

    The researchers analyzed the body language of the people on the tape, and identified several aspects of demeanor that marked potential victims as good targets. One of the main precipitators is a walking style that lacks "interactional synchrony" and "wholeness." Perpetrators notice a person whose walk lacks organized movement and flowing motion. Criminals view such people as less self-confident—perhaps because their walk suggests they are less athletic and fit—and are much more likely to exploit them.

    Just like predators in the wild, armed robbers often attack the slowest in the herd. People who drag their feet, shuffle along, or exhibit other unusual gaits are targeted more often than people who walk fast and fluidly.

    That criminals are attuned to cues of vulnerability makes sense given that most criminals, especially murderers, are looking for people who will be easy to control. Even rape is motivated less by sex and more by the desire for control and power.

    Sexual predators in particular look for people they can easily overpower. "The rapist is going to go after somebody who's not paying attention, who looks like they're not going to put up a fight, who's in a location that's going to make this more convenient," says Tod Burke, a criminologist at Radford University in Virginia...

    The full feature can be found at; Marked for Mayhem | Psychology Today

    - Janq

    Funny how these eggheads are all stunned and surprised even going so far as to create terms for what has been a well known _fact_ among all beasts and insects since the dawn of time.
    I mean seriously what will they discover next?
    "Killers who are not deterred by laws against murder are not going to be deterred by laws against guns. " - Robert A. Levy

    "A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman." - Florida Div. of Licensing

  2. #2
    pax is offline
    Senior Member Array pax's Avatar
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    Interesting article.

    And while you're at it, don't even talk to strangers on the street in isolated locations. One warning sign that you may be about to be robbed or attacked is the approach of a stranger on the street. The person may try to engage you in conversation. He may ask for the time, directions, bus fare, or try to tell you about a nice club or restaurant just around the corner.

    Calvin Donaldson, who's been in prison in Louisiana for the last 28 years after robbing a couple in the French Quarter who asked him for directions, offers some advice: "Once you stop and let this guy engage you in conversation, you're opening yourself up," he says. "Some people you don't talk to. You just keep going."
    Of course, if you're a woman who says the exact same thing about talking to strangers in another article, you're just paranoid and arrogant. (linky)

    How do you survive unharmed if you find yourself targeted? Cooperate. "They're not going to hurt you unless they need to," says New Orleans Police Department psychologist James Arey. Convicted armed robber Darryl Falls, who admits to committing more than 100 robberies, agrees. "The quicker you comply and give them your goods," he says, "the quicker they're out of your face."
    That's great advice when the crime is "only" a mugging. But keeping in mind that many assaults are crimes of opportunity that develop during a mugging, this might be very bad advice indeed.

    Here's one hint: if the person is 'only' robbing you, he doesn't need to move you even a few steps. If he tries to get you to move -- around the corner, into a vehicle, just a few steps back into the shadows -- there's a much higher likelihood that it's a violent crime in the making.

    Kathy Jackson
    My website: Cornered Cat

  3. #3
    VIP Member Array Janq's Avatar
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    Agreed Pax.

    Movement from the exact spot you are on is always a sign of bigger troubles near by.
    This is learning that goes back to K-12 with the bully taking the nerd off into an empty bathroom or locker room to 'talk' further. Red alert!

    - Janq
    "Killers who are not deterred by laws against murder are not going to be deterred by laws against guns. " - Robert A. Levy

    "A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman." - Florida Div. of Licensing

  4. #4
    Member Array UnklFungus's Avatar
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    The more articles that are out there to help people become aware, the better!

    This stuff should be taught in grade school!
    “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

    Patrick Henry
    Quote Originally Posted by UnklFungus
    If it is ok to disarm legal citizens to reduce crime, then doesn't it stand to disband the military to prevent war?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Array Plop's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    Great article, thanks for posting. I'm sending this to my wife/friends!

    "In America, freedom and justice have always come from the ballot box, the jury box, and when that fails, the cartridge box."
    -- Steve Symms, US Senator from Idaho, 1990

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