Concept of the Month -- September 2003

Criminality and Suggestibility

I interviewed Ed, a young man who found himself caught up in more than he bargained for. Having gone along with some friends to ostensibly get some extra money, the situation ended up with a murdered taxi driver. He and two buddies hailed a cab, then proceeded to rob the driver. When Ed realized that this was turning into more than he bargained for, he fled. The driver was murdered by his buddies. I was told that Ed wasn't a criminal but a fellow who was passive, easily influenced, and readily led by others.

One often encounters such explanations. I have found them not to be true. Like other offenders, Ed was suggestible to some things, not to others. His parents were hardworking, responsible people who tried to "influence" their son in a positive direction. He was not influenced by their work ethic. Nor was he suggestible to their urging him to stay away from certain troublemakers. He was, however, suggestible to so-called friends who proposed exciting adventures, including committing crimes.

People are suggestible to some things, not to others. We make choices all the time. We are open to some influences, not to others. Ed persisted in the choice of unsavory companions despite influences to the contrary.

He paid a price with a long penitentiary sentence. Explaining what happened partly on the basis of his "suggestibility" confuses more than illuminates what really happened and the true personality of Ed.


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