Reaction formation is a psychological defense mechanism that occurs when an individual exhibits behavior or attitudes that are opposite of their true feelings or impulses in response to a perceived threat or anxiety.
In the criminal justice context, it can be relevant in understanding the behavior of individuals who engage in criminal activity as a means of repressing or suppressing their true feelings or desires. For example, an individual who has strong feelings of attraction towards someone but is unable to act on them due to fear of rejection may exhibit extreme hostility or aggression towards that person as a way of masking their true feelings. Reaction formation can also be relevant in understanding the behavior of individuals who may engage in criminal behavior as a way of compensating for feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem.
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Last Modified: 03/13/2023