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Crime and Violence: Desensitization in Victims to Watching Criminal Events

Author

Listed:
  • Rafael Di Tella

    (Harvard Business School, Business, Government and the International Economy Unit)

  • Lucía Freira

    (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella)

  • Ramiro H. Gálvez

    (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella)

  • Ernesto Schargrodsky

    (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella)

  • Diego Shalom

    (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella)

  • Mariano Sigman

    (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella)

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

  • Rafael Di Tella & Lucía Freira & Ramiro H. Gálvez & Ernesto Schargrodsky & Diego Shalom & Mariano Sigman, 2017. "Crime and Violence: Desensitization in Victims to Watching Criminal Events," Harvard Business School Working Papers 18-039, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:18-039
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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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Crime and Violence: Desensitization in Victims to Watching Criminal Events
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2018-03-20 13:34:07

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    crime; biological markers; experiment; victimization; desensitization;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

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

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

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