Techniques of Neutralization

GRESHAM SYKES and David Matza (1958) articulated five techniques of neutralization that were derived from observing recently arrested juvenile delinquents. Neutralizations represent common justifications or excuses for wrongful behavior prior to committing it, in order to alleviate moral guilt. They are: 1) denial of injury (no harm was really done); 2) denial of victim (no crime occurred because the entity against whom the act was committed deserved it); 3) denial of responsibility (it was not the actor's fault); 4) condemnation of condemners (penalizers are hypocrites); and 5) appeals to higher loyalties (the act was done because of an allegiance to a more important principle, like loyalty to a group).

Donald Cressey's classic 1953 work on embezzlers, Other People's Money, anticipated by several years the ideas of ...

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