Asked by: Mary Lennard, Doncaster
Reports earlier this year that some of the girls kidnapped by Islamist militants in Nigeria wanted to stay with their captors led to claims they were experiencing Stockholm Syndrome. This was a reference to a phenomenon first noted following a failed bank robbery in Stockholm in August 1973. Police negotiators found that the hostages had formed a positive bond with their captors. This led to claims that their fear and loss of control had led to even small acts of kindness triggering irrational levels of gratitude.
However, following her release, one of the hostages insisted their response was a rational way of responding to the situation, increasing their survival chances. Considerable doubt still surrounds the existence of Stockholm Syndrome, and it is not recognised by official psychiatric diagnostic handbooks.
Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.