The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response of a hostage, or an individual in a hostage-like situation (e.g. dependent child, battered wife, etc.), in which the more powerful person (a) has the power to put the individual's life in danger or at least the power to harm the individual, and (b) occasionally exercises this power in order to show that he or she is able to use it if the victim will not conform to the more powerful person's will. The main symptom of the syndrome is the individual's seeming loyalty to the more powerful person in spite of the danger (or at least risk) in which they are placed as a result of this loyalty
- Kidnapping of the Mind (Ramit Sethi, em PDF)
Under what conditions can Stockholm Syndrome take place? Very simply, there are four major categories in which such a suitable can manifest itself. First, the captor or power-holder threatens to kill the victims and, more importantly, is perceived as having the capability to do so. Next, the victim must be in a situation where he or she cannot escape, so that survival depends on the captor. Third, the scenario must involve a very real level of isolation: in a bank robbery, for example, the only available viewpoints and interpretations of the situation are the captor’s, and the cumulative effect of being in a crisis scenario with only one source of information—no matter how biased or irrational— can severely distort rational judgments about the accuracy of that information. Finally, there is almost always some degree of kindness shown by the captor. For instance, a hijacker who “allows” hostages to eat must of course be a good person deep inside. In such an interpretation, we see a confusion of dispositional and situational elements: the hostage’s capability for coherent decisions, already severely weakened, interprets the situation—which must be forcing the captor into this position—as overriding the hostagetaker’s disposition—which, in a normal situation, would of course be perfectly normal.