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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 and identifying with the captors. 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. The FBI's Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 8% of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome.
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." 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 perceived as a threat.
Stockholm syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm, Sweden, in which several bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault from August 23 to 28, 1973, while their captors negotiated with police. During this standoff, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, rejected assistance from government officials at one point, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The term was coined by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, consultant psychiatrist to the police when it happened. He called it "Norrmalmstorgssyndromet" (Swedish), directly translated as The Norrmalmstorg Syndrome, but then later became known abroad as the Stockholm syndrome. It was originally defined by psychiatrist Frank Ochberg to aid the management of hostage situations.
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."
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 Israeli military historian 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 ..." Being captured and having their dependent children killed might have been fairly common. Women who resisted capture in such situations risked being killed.
Azar Gat argues that war and abductions (capture) were typical of human pre-history. When selection is intense and persistent, adaptive traits (such as capture-bonding) become universal to the population or species.
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. Being captured by neighbouring 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.
The Stockholm syndrome can be used to introduce surprising plot twists, where a supposed ally suddenly turns on the protagonist. For example, in the opening sequence of Never Say Never Again James Bond is "killed" in a training exercise by a prisoner he has released, since he doesn't anticipate that she might be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Other examples are Criminal Minds where a few episodes have featured abducted characters who succumbed to loyalty and obedience towards their captors, and Pawn Shop Chronicles in which the capture of women makes them love him, one of the women even betraying her husband. Another example of this is present in the 2005 remake of King Kong as Ann Darrow, the woman who is sacrificed to Kong, fears the ape at first but slowly develops feelings toward the creature and even attempts to save it. Many bands have published songs titled Stockholm syndrome, such as Yo La Tengo, Muse, blink-182 and One Direction. The 1988 movie Die Hard and a 2011 episode of the BBC motoring show Top Gear misattribute the Stockholm syndrome as "Helsinki syndrome".
A converse of Stockholm syndrome called Lima syndrome has been proposed, in which abductors develop sympathy for their hostages. There are many reasons why Lima Syndrome can develop in abductors. Sometimes when there are multiple abductors, one or more of them will start to disagree with what they are doing and influence one another, or they just begin to feel bad and don't have the heart to continue hurting their captives. Lima Syndrome was named after an abduction at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru, in 1996, when members of a militant movement took hostage hundreds of people attending a party at the official residence of Japan's ambassador. Within a few hours, the abductors had set free most of the hostages, including the most valuable ones, owing to having sympathy towards them.
A corollary of the Stockholm syndrome was proposed by Kenneth Levin in his 2005 book The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege in which he argued that the syndrome can afflict an entire people.
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