Why respectable people turned to looting

Linda Geddes 

A millionaire’s daughter, a school teaching assistant and a lifeguard are hardly the sort of people you’d have expected to get caught up in the wave of violent looting that hit the UK earlier this week. So what drives privileged or seemingly virtuous people to do bad things?

As those responsible for the disturbances begin to appear in court, it is becoming clear that the looters were not all out-of-control teenagers with nothing to lose. They came from a variety of backgrounds, and in some cases have expressed horror and regret at what they did.

"It’s a classic demonstration of the power of the situation," says Ayelet Fishbach, a behavioural scientist at the University of Chicago, Illinois. "People in a group follow the group’s norms."

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