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Psychology of the Accomplice: About

Psychology of the Accomplice

Link to Scoundrel: how a convicted murderer persuaded the women who loved him, the conservative establishment, and the courts to set him free by Sarah Weinman in the catalog
Link to The Best New True Crime Stories: Partners in Crime by Mitzi Szereto in Freading
Link to The Accomplice: a Novel by Lisa Lutz in the catalog
Link to Talking with Serial Killers: Sleeping with Psychopaths by Christopher Berry-Dee in Freading
Link to The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel in the catalog
Link to The Manson Women and Me by Nikki Meredith in the catalog
Link to The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall in the catalog
Link to Women Who Love Men Who Kill by Sheila Isenberg in Freading
Link to Loyalty: A Novel by Lisa Scottoline in the catalog
Link to The Godmother : murder, vengeance, and the bloody struggle of Mafia women by Barbie Latza Nadeau in the catalog
Link to Unspeakable Acts: true tales of crime, murder, deceit, and obsession by Sarah Weinman in the catalog


When Push Comes to Shove, Loyalty Trumps Justice

Imagine you’re out shopping when you see a stranger pick up a smartphone, put it in his pocket, and walk out of the store without paying. Then, as you’re leaving the store, a police officer stops and asks if you know anything about the crime.  What do you do? Do you tell the officer what you saw, or do you look the other way?

Now imagine yourself in the same scenario but with a twist: rather than a stranger stealing the smartphone, it’s your best friend.   Now what do you do?  Do you respond any differently?

The tension you feel when answering these hypotheticals highlight two fundamental tendencies that, at times, meet at loggerheads—justice (the inclination to punish people who break the rules or commit immoral acts) and loyalty (the obligation to favor and protect people we are close to).

What happens when these motives collide head-on, what influences our decision-making in these dilemmas, and how can we alter our behavior? Over the course of 10 experiments, my colleagues and I set out to explore these questions. First, we asked research participants different versions of the same hypothetical question I asked you above. We wrote different versions of each situation that the participants read and responded to. In some versions, the perpetrator was someone close to the participant, and in some versions the perpetrator was a stranger. In addition, some of the situations involved serious offenses such as blackmail or assault, and some of them involved less serious offenses such as illegally downloading music or harassment.  

The findings were consistent: participants indicated that they would protect relationship partners more than strangers, and this discrepancy increased with the severity of the crime. Continue reading from The Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Link to Art Heists that Made History resource guide series