University of Twente Student Theses


The impact of bystanders on offenders: the presence of bystanders increases the likelihood of shoplifting

Shayea, A. (2017) The impact of bystanders on offenders: the presence of bystanders increases the likelihood of shoplifting.

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Abstract:Shoplifting is a common crime in the Netherlands and billions of euros have been spent on prevention. According to the Routine Activity Theory (RAT), the presence of a guardian can already prevent crimes from taking place. The present study will examine the effects of bystanders on shoplifting behavior in a quasi-experiment. Participants were tasked to steal a bracelet from a store, where the number of shoppers (i.e. bystanders) actually varied. Additionally, private self-awareness was manipulated by placing (vs. not placing) a mirror in the store. The main outcome measures in the experiment were shoplifting behavior and level of arousal, which were measured in real time with an Empatica E4 wristband. Based on the RAT, we proposed two competing hypotheses. It was expected that the presence of a bystander will make it less likely for participants to steal (H1a). However, if too many bystanders are present, the opposite occurs: shoplifting behavior will increase (H1b) because offenders feel less visible. Furthermore, the presence of a mirror was expected to result in reduced shoplifting behavior, (H2) due to increased self-awareness. For the level of arousal, a main effect was hypothesized: more bystanders will result in a higher level of arousal (H3). The findings showed a reverse pattern expected from RAT and participants were more likely to steal when bystanders were around. As expected, with the presence of the mirror, participants were less likely to steal compared with participant in no-mirror condition. No significant results have been found for the level of arousal. This study revealed that the RAT does not apply to a crime such as shoplifting, but indicates that mirrors in shops could serve as monitor to discourage offenders from shoplifting.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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