Magazine article Psychology Today

Hiding in Plain Sight

Magazine article Psychology Today

Hiding in Plain Sight

Article excerpt

WHEN NOTORIOUS CRIMINALS EVADE CAPTURE, STEREOTYPES MAY BE TO BLAME.

PICTURE A PROTOTYPICAL villain or convict,and a stooped old man or a charming teenager probably doesn't come to mind. The heuristics we lean on when conjuring the "bad guy" allow offenders to slip out from under our noses. -Leonora Desar

JAMES "WHITEY" BULGER

Bulgerwas America's most wanted gangster, but tor more than a decade he convinced people that he was just an elderly eccentric. "We don't typically think of the elderly as horrific criminals," says Alan Castel, a UCLA psychologist. We are also more likely to recognize people who are the same age as we are, he adds; this may explain why law enforcers-who tend to be younger than Bulger's 83 years-didn't catch the Boston mob boss sooner.

ELMER EDWARD SOLLY

After escaping from prison, Solly-convicted of murdering his girlfriend's toddler son-boldly assumed the Identity of the deceased lead singer of rock band Sha Na Na. "When people are that narcissistic, they tend to be very confident in themselves," speculates Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychologist at DeSales University. …

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