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Crime and violence: Desensitization in victims to watching criminal events

Author

Listed:
  • Di Tella, Rafael
  • Freira, Lucía
  • Gálvez, Ramiro H.
  • Schargrodsky, Ernesto
  • Shalom, Diego
  • Sigman, Mariano

Abstract

We study desensitization to crime in a lab experiment by showing footage of criminal acts to a group of subjects, some of whom have been previously victimized. We measure biological markers of stress and behavioral indices of cognitive control before and after treated participants watch a series of real, crime-related videos (while the control group watches non-crime-related videos). Not previously victimized participants exposed to the treatment video show significant changes in cortisol level, heart rate, and measures of cognitive control. Instead, previously victimized individuals who are exposed to the treatment video show biological markers and cognitive performance comparable to those measured in individuals exposed to the control video. These results suggest a phenomenon of desensitization or habituation of victims to crime exposure.

Suggested Citation

  • Di Tella, Rafael & Freira, Lucía & Gálvez, Ramiro H. & Schargrodsky, Ernesto & Shalom, Diego & Sigman, Mariano, 2019. "Crime and violence: Desensitization in victims to watching criminal events," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 613-625.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:159:y:2019:i:c:p:613-625
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2017.10.005
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Amodio, Francesco, 2019. "Crime protection investment spillovers: Theory and evidence from the City of Buenos Aires," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 626-649.
    3. Rafael di Tella & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2009. "Happiness, Ideology and Crime in Argentine Cities," Research Department Publications 4645, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    4. Soares, Rodrigo R, 2004. "Crime Reporting as a Measure of Institutional Development," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(4), pages 851-871, July.
    5. Rafael di Tella & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2009. "Happiness, Ideology and Crime in Argentine Cities," Research Department Publications 4645, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    6. Brendan O'Flaherty & Rajiv Sethi, 2010. "Peaceable Kingdoms and War Zones: Preemption, Ballistics and Murder in Newark," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 305-353 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Crime; Biological markers; Experiment; Victimization; Desensitization;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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