top of page

Forensic Psychology of Shoplifting

forensic psychology of shoplifting

In this Forensic Psychology episode of the podcast, we’ll be looking at the great topic of Shoplifting. This is a great psychology episode, please enjoy.

The Forensic Psychology of Shoplifting; COPYRIGHT 2021 CONNOR WHITELEY.


Moving onto a more focused area of theft, shoplifting is when a person takes something from a shop without paying for it. That’s a simple definition.

Also, I remember back when I was about 8 years olds and a police officer came into our school. To tell us that shoplifting was bad, and it was so common, it didn’t even get reported on the news.

Referring to a more official source, according to Hopkins (2002) 80% of retailers and 63% of manufacturers experienced a crime compared to only 30% of people. As well as alcoholic drinking shops and DIY stores are more likely to be burglarized.

Overall, shoplifting is surprisingly common.

Situational Action Theory

There have been a lot of theories that try to explain why theft and shoplifting occurs.

Therefore, we need to look at Situational Action Theory (SAT) because it combines environmental explanations with psychological explanations to explain why this type of offending occurs.

To see how the theory works Hirtenlehnera and Hardie (2016) used it to explain adolescent shoplifting. With the theory bringing together a person’s mortality, environmental factor, self-control, and social control (deterrents) to predict whether a person will shoplift.

The theory proposes that when our mortality and the social controls are criminogenic (right for crime), we commit crime.

For example, if a person didn’t see shoplifting as bad and there were no members of staff or cameras about. This would make the situation right for committing a crime. Thus, the person probably would commit the shoplifting offence.

Shoplifter Tactics to Avoid Getting Caught:

Shoplifters use a lot of tactics to avoid getting caught and arrested. As I was reading the research in this area, I was rather entertained by how crafty and clever some of the offenders were. And please don’t try these at home! (or in shops!)

The main tactic we’ll look at in the book is from Laskey, Jacques and Fisher (2005) when they found the most common tactic for shoplifting is blending in with other shoppers.

At first, this might sound simple and boring, but this isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Since the shoplifter needs to employ a mental schema, deeply rooted mental representations or frameworks that affect how we encode, store and retrieve information, about how normal shoppers speak, act and communication based on their own normal experience.

Additionally, the researchers interviewed shoplifters and the offenders said shoplifting happens in three stages.

Firstly, they enter the shop to find an item to steal, and they show signs of being a normal shopper by getting another trolley and they examine other items.

Next, the shoplifter takes the item. A clever way of doing this was to use a phone and hold it close to the object. Before taking both the phone and the object away at the same time.

Then stage 3 is leaving the shop in a normal manner to avoid drawing suspicion.

On a more practical note, these tactics make it difficult for security to catch the shoplifters. Especially, when the shoplifters merge into large groups of people.

One way to deal with this problem is to look out for a particular type of person but if arrests are systemically biased. Then looking for a particular type of person will reproduce the bias, and could be considered oppressive.

I certainly agree with the previous point because whenever I would go into certain shops between the ages of 17 to 19. I would always be stopped on the way out even if I was out with my dad shopping. Since because I was of the age where I was likely to shoplift.

Personally, I never would shoplift!

This was disgraceful I think, and this is another reason why I support the Black Lives Matter movement. When people were saying that black people getting pulled over more isn’t biased.

It clearly is. especially, when I keep getting stopped in shops because I’m the age where I’m likely to shoplift.

I really hope you enjoyed this forensic psychology episode.

If you want to learn more please check out:

Have a great day!

I truly hope that you’re enjoyed this blog post and if you feel like supporting the blog on an ongoing basis and get lots of rewards, then please head to my Patreon page.

However, if want to show one-time support and appreciation, the place to do that is PayPal. If you do that, please include your email address in the notes section, so I can say thank you.

Which I am going to say right now. Thank you!

Click to go to PayPal.

15 views0 comments


bottom of page