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The Psychology of Looting?

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posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 08:43 PM
Any psychology students or practitioners out there?

Back in January of 1998 an Ice storm dumped over 100 mm (4 inches) of ice on Montreal. Power was out for days in some sections of the city and for weeks in some outlying areas. 14,000 troops were deployed with supplies and generators to help keep people from freezing to death and help with the cleanup of all the downed trees and power lines. I don't recall if Martial Law was officially declared and can't seem to find "official" confirmation with a google search.

But you know what was missing?


I don't remember any stories about looting in a major metropolitan city without power for long periods of time. If there was, there sure wasn't much.

Reading the Martial Law thread in ATSNN it seems that looting is an expected thing every time an opportunity presents itself. Heck if I was stuck in a devastated city with no way out and no friends to help I would certainly go grocery "shopping", maybe some clothes to stay warm, but stealing electronics and high end goods? and cops partaking?

I'm not trying to make this a Canada v. US thing here. After all human nature is the same all over.

I'm just trying to figure out the psychology of looting, especially the non-survival kind. I mean stealing a plasma TV to hang on a soggy wall and plug into a non-functional electrical grid?

Is it cultural? (maybe it is a US v. Canada thing after all?)

Is it the class divide (i.e. poverty)?

Is it some psychological reaction to extreme stress?

Were we just too busy trying to keep warm in Montreal and there's nothing better to do in New Orleans right now?


What's up with that?

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:09 PM
Perhaps people loot goods such as tvs because they feel that after the disaster is over they will still own undamaged goods. Perhaps they also intend to sell the goods once the disaster is over to help cover the cost of damages. Or it could just be the feeling of opportunity to be able to commit a crime and get away with it easily.

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:10 PM
Is it harder to loot, when the streets are slippery?

I think your questions, are some of the answers..

Some is for survival, but once a few start, a frenzy may ensue..
There are some people that feel they are "owed something" they take it.

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:19 PM
I think some looting is normal...


Your out of food and you need supplies... theres no one to man the stores, theres no supplies coming.. GET FOOD... seems like a normal human reaction.

Then, theres the looting of TV's and electrical goods, my opinion is that the kind of people who do this are of low inteligence.. They think "wooo!! no cops, no employe's lets go loot us some plasma screens.."

So I guess it all depends on the actual items being looted and its the same world wide, im sure even the very moral based countries would see looting of food and clothing.


posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:22 PM
The thinking that goes into looting is beyond me, Gools...I just can't fathom why someone would try to benefit from another persons' loss.

There seems to be a total void in such people, as if their hearts are empty.

Perhaps it has something to do with disassociation, where they feel like they're not part of the community when it was healthy and vibrant. I don't know...

It seems like they fell upon the soul of the stricken city and felt the need to strike a killing blow out of hatred.

As they are evacuated from New Orleans, though, the booty ravaged from homes and businesses will slip from their fingers into the foul waters.

They will only carry with them the loss of innocence and the memories of their crime.

I hope it haunts their very dreams.

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:24 PM
Thanks for the replies.

Sell it for cash falls certainly falls into the economic divide column.

Originally posted by Felt_Marshall
Or it could just be the feeling of opportunity to be able to commit a crime and get away with it easily.


Hadn't though of that one. You think this comes from people who feel repressed?

Originally posted by spacedoubt
WThere are some people that feel they are "owed something" they take it.

Hmmm... can you be more specific?

I just lost my house, all my possession and my job but I'm going to take that plasma TV and X-box I got comming?

Where would that come from? Advertising? Social values?

And yeah, you basically needed skates to get around, which would also make for quick get-aways.


posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:29 PM
I was thinking more about this.
If it were me, and my families life depended on it, I would do it.
Clothes, and food.. I would probably spraypaint an IOU on the wall..LOL

I mean, what good is a plasma TV, I have no house, no power?
I would rather have my arms free to carry a child, or someones lost dog.

Edit, to answer GOOLS..

Owed something:
You've probably heard something like this before, "they're a big company, with a bunch of rich guys at the top. I don't have what they have..I can get a little bit of payback"

Haven't you ever met someone who just feels the world owes them a free ride?

[edit on 30-8-2005 by spacedoubt]

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:29 PM

Originally posted by Vorta
You're out of food and you need supplies... theres no one to man the stores, theres no supplies coming.. GET FOOD... seems like a normal human reaction..


Absolutely, Vorta...that's not looting, that's survival...I saw one woman with diapers and baby food...I felt for her situation and would have helped her carry it.

Looting, to me, are those who were taking anything but those things needed to get through this.

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:30 PM
It is phycological, the fact that they have somthing 'great' that they couldnt have had before makes them feal large.

Or they may not notice that you cant really use it untill they try.

There natural instinkes come in, and in the sociaty that we live in we dont need many instincs, we are more about were to buy our produce and couches etc, so the natural thing for our dependant age sociaty to do would to take electronics because we use them constantly.

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:31 PM
there's two types of looting.

looting for necessity (food, supplies that might save a life, get you out of danger kind of thing)

and then the useless senseless looting (tv's, electronics, etc)

the second type is the real problem and the physcology issue one. I feel this the where the poverty and education issues come in to play. The type of people who commit this type of looting are people who well just don't know any better, they aren't thinking ahead and just looking to take advantage of the situation. There are certain people born with that criminal element and they are usually the ones to start the issue, then the less thinking, opportunistic people usually follow.

Now you may think this unrelated but I also think heat plays a part in these type of incidents, in a snow storm people aren't looking to leave thier homes to go stealing, but when it's hot...tempers boil, the mind begins to lose it and well judgement isn't quite so good anymore.

When Hurricane Andrew hit Miami, there was also considerable looting..
I think this heat factor really plays a part in it.

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 09:31 PM
Unless of cource your smart enough to get food, but if we ran out as I said many ofus would not know how to survive off of the land because we have become a very dependant race.

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 10:54 PM
Looting is committed by the most excluded and uneducated parts of society. In Brazil, there is a form of semi-organised looting: the looters come down in groups of 500 or more on people in beaches and steal everything in sight. Few are caught and the law provides no protection against them.
The generalized looting in New Orleans (not including necessary items like food) probably belies a deep social problem. It is on moments like these that social fractures become apparent. The exact same thing could happen in other parts of America, too. It tends to happen more in ethnically diverse societies, that have no common culture. America would disintegrate without a strong police force.

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 11:16 PM
A looter, earlier today, stated that their particular looting was a way to "get back at society."

So is this a class thing? Well, no, that would be a presumption that can't be supported, as there are undoubtedly many poor, rural people who have, instead of looting, bonded together to help each other in the wake of the storm.

So... what is the cause, then?

Ultimately, my guess is that it all boils down to the theoretical 'social contract'. Most people are smart enough to realize that they are a part of a society and that laws exist for a reason... but there are some people who only obey the law because a police presence forces them to do so. These are people who, deep down inside, do not comprehend the purpose of government and only see things in terms of what they want at the moment.

So... when local government is destroyed because of disasters... these people do whatever they want because they were only behaving properly before because they were forced to. The rule of law, for them, is not a thing of value in and of itself... it is a thing from outside, a thing that is conditional and not inherently valuable. In other words... this is not a question of 'law abiding citizens'... it is a matter that involves the difference between people who consider the rule of law a thing to be taken for granted and people who think that the law is something 'the Man' imposed on them for no real reason.

Sorry to be brutal... but that's the truth. Are Canadians more civilized than Americans? I don't know... but is Canada the same as the United States in other ways?

[edit on 30-8-2005 by onlyinmydreams]

posted on Aug, 30 2005 @ 11:40 PM
Who is most dominant, who can be at the top when all is at its lowest. Of course the truth is that they are the lowest, it will come back to them. As there actions are portraid as who they are, in most desperate times, the truth of the human kind will be easily visible to the individual nature of each person.

We cannot comprehend there inscrudable acts because they are the lowest, and we cannot limit ourselves to understanding there vices.

They will grovle at the feet of the richouse and compasionate when they plead for help, and the compasionate will accept and help them. The compasionate will allso punish them, but not at the time that they save them. You could call it punishment or lesson, it both commits to the same thing.

Punnishment not as in a beating,more like an etream dissapointment.

The possesions that they had stole will become symbles of there own misunderstanding and decapitated moral, for if you focus on the fact that they stole a television, than you will be focused on the television, the fact is that they stole to there 'misunderstood' advantage, were they were to stupid to steal in the first place, and are still stupid when they realize that there material life is smotherd in thirty feet of water.

posted on Aug, 31 2005 @ 02:54 AM
This is very very simple, the looting (of unneeded goods, not food of course) is commited by the underbelly of society which is only kept in line with fear. (fear of imprisonment or some type of punishment) Society is usually both hated and feared by these people, once you lift fear and only have hate, this is what you get. In my opinion it shows a great underlying problem in society itself.

posted on Aug, 31 2005 @ 07:42 AM
I think WW's take of the climate playing a part has some bearing but in truth, I think we all know its a cultural thing. Most people who loot are not the upstanding citizens with jobs and family. They are thugs and gang members who lay around all day and because that plasma screen TV wasn't dropped off to them for free like they believe they are entitled to, they use the excuse of getting back at society to steal the things they're just too damn lazy to earn.

Its also a product of very poor careless parenting happening these days. Having 6 to 8 kids with income below the poverty line by different fathers none of whom will accept any responsibility. Allowing them to run wild, skip school, and blame their trespasses of the law on those who alledgedly keep them down while their mother's are too lazy to haul their rears off the couch and teach them any better.

They are taught they are owed this stuff for no more a reason than being born. They are taught no remorse or conscious nor any personal responsibility and it only worsens the scenario that we have politcal parties out there practicing class warfare and encouraging this very "entitled" behavior. Not a person in the US is entitled to anything except the chance to earn what we need and want.

These are not victims getting even with society, these are perpetrators victimizing those who have just come through a disasster. They are making it much worse than it has to be much like the riots in LA a few years ago. They are hurting their own economy, their own people for a few material possessions that are likely damaged as well. If they have enough food and water that they have time to worry about merchandise, they need to help others instead of themselves.

posted on Aug, 31 2005 @ 08:58 AM
To use the terms of the most apologetic liberal thinking people, it is a part of that social classes 'Social Prerogative'. The apologists would say that because these people are denied the 'normal' benefits of society, looting is the only option available to them to become 'normalized' into society.

I laughed my ass off when I heard it too.

posted on Aug, 31 2005 @ 11:14 AM

Originally posted by Chuck Stevenson
The apologists would say that because these people are denied the 'normal' benefits of society, looting is the only option available to them to become 'normalized' into society.

In my opinion, they are not denied normal benefits. They refuse to earn normal benefits. Heck, I live pretty poor compared to a lot of people but pretty damned good compared to starving people. Its all in perspective and priorities. My priority is the health and welbeing of my family and I work everyday for it. Most of their priority is their image and the chip on their shoulder.

Sure there are people in this world who do have it handed to them and who do have an obvious advantage because of who they were born to be. I can admit that and thats always going to be a necessary evil, I'm afraid. But we all know they do not deserve it even with someone willing to give it to them. That does not mean someone who refuses to put forth any effort at all does deserve it. No one deserves it unless they put in the time, effort, and ingenuity to obtain it.

I feel for those people down there. I fully understand doing what it takes to feed and clother one's family in a time like this. The people carrying food, water and clothing I have no beef with. The people sniping police and rescue workers to keep them from intruding on a jewelry store robbery should be shot on sight. They have no jails and no courts. One option left.

posted on Aug, 31 2005 @ 11:34 AM
astrocreep, if you weren't a mod you would get my vote for "way above" this month. I think you hit the nail on the head.

Although in a situation like what's happening in NO I wouldn't hold anything against people taking necessities, ie. food, water, etc. But in a snippit on FOX they addressed the looting going on and mentioned people breaking and stealing the coins from slot machines.
There is no reason for things like that to be going on. I wouldn't shed a tear for the passing of an individual in a situation like this looting things they don't need for survival.

posted on Aug, 31 2005 @ 06:01 PM
The next major deal that goes down here, like a flood as seen in LA, riot, etc, I'm lootin non-stop.

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