Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Hostage negotiation, motivation, and emotion

Hostage negotiation:
What role does motivation and emotion play in hostage negotiation?


Focus Questions
  • What is hostage negotiation?
  • What are the motivations involved in hostage negotiation?
  • What are the emotions involved in hostage negotiation?

Hostage NegotiationEdit

Have you ever wondered why someone might kidnap another human being? Or the question of what emotions could one possibly be experiencing to do such a thing?[grammar?] Perhaps you have watched crime shows and thriller movies and thought ... "I could negotiate with a criminal". This chapter delves into the role motivation and emotion play in hostage negotiation.

Figure 1. Hostage situations are high-intensity situations involving multiple people.

We have all seen movies or tv shows that depict hostage situations, think TV shows like Brooklyn 99 (2013), Law and Order (1990), Chicago PD (2014), or movies such as Beirut (2018), Speed (1994) or Hostage (2005). This entertainment can be based on real stories, overdramatised, instilling fear in us or even make us laugh. We all have a basic understanding of what goes on between the negotiator, and hostage taker, debating back and forth, trying to reach a common ground while all needs and desires are being met.

Hacker et al. (1998) defines a hostage incident as “an incident in which (a) perpetrator(s) hold(s) one or more persons against their will in a location known to police” (see figure 1).

History of Hostage NegotiationsEdit

Hostage situations are as old as recorded time and can be traced back to biblical times. The first recorded account of the use of force to resolve a hostage incident is in the Book of Genesis 14:12-16 with the abduction, and rescue of Lot, Abraham's nephew. There were 318 men used to rescue Lot (Soskis & Van Zandt, 1986) as cited in Hacker et al., 1998). There are many hostage events in history, Helen of Troy’s abduction, kidnapping and ransom of Julius Caesar (Hacker et al., 1998). On February 12th, 1942, German authorities seized 45 French civilians as hostages (Kuhn, 1942). Palestinian extremists stormed Israeli athletes’ dorms and held them hostage demanding the release of 200 political prisoners (Bolz Jr, 2001).

Detective Harvey Schlossberg, who worked for the New York Police Department (NYPD) is credited for modern hostage negotiation principles (Murillo, 2022). As Schlossberg was the first NYPD officer who held a PhD in psychology, he had a knack for the psychological perspective of policing. He noticed something lacking in the police department, this was a need for dedicated crisis intervention-trained professionals. With the help of others, he introduced many psychological principles in policing, including crisis negotiators (Murillo, 2022) which incorporated principles of conflict and dispute resolution (Van Hasselt et al., 2008).

The Role of the NegotiatorEdit

As Schlossberg intended, the role of the hostage negotiator is to resolve high-risk situations in a “peaceful, non-violent manner when possible” (Van Hasselt., et al 2008). The hostage negotiator’s role is typically to talk to the hostage taker, to ensure everyone emerges from the situation alive. This can consist of using strategies such as slowing down the incident, which can ensure the captors the opportunity to share their emotions and feelings and allow them to reconsider what they have done (Van Hasselt., et al 2008). The hostage negotiator uses verbal strategies to buy time, and mediate so that rationality from the captor can increase and emotions decrease (Hatcher et al., 1998). Soskis and Zant (1986) explain the hostage negotiator wants to form a trusting relationship with the hostage taker, the hostage negotiator wants to create a safe space, where there is a sense of mutual interest and concern, in turn acting as a credible mediator between the captor and the authorities.  

Negotiation Theory.Edit

Figure 2. Active listening components.

Negotiation theory plays a major role in achieving a positive outcome. Negotiation theory has developed over the past several decades. Core concepts include utilising specific strategies to accomplish the goal of a safe, nonviolent, and peaceful defusal of the situation. These strategies derive from active listening skills (see figure 2), which can include mirroring, paraphrasing, emotional labelling, open-ended questions, effective pausing, and minimal encouragement, [grammar?] using these skills in the early stages of negotiation is proved to be a critical factor in the resolution of the hostage situation (Royce, 2004). Brett and Gelfand (2005) conducted a cultural analysis of negotiation theory, and its major assumptions [grammar?] they concluded that western values and assumptions reflect in negotiation theory. The assumptions that consist of the role of rationality versus emotionality, the importance of losing capital versus gaining capital, the internal and external attributions that are made, and the role and management of communication and confrontation. These assumptions reflect important values and norms that are well-informed in Western culture.

The Role Motivation Plays in Hostage Negotiation and SituationsEdit

[Provide more detail]

Definition of MotivationEdit

Psychologists have proposed two kinds of theories for motivation: Dualism theory and multifaceted theory (Reiss, 2004). Reiss (2012) both defined and expanded on both theories, dualism divides human motives into two categories, intrinsic and extrinsic. Whereas multifaceted theory suggests several genetically distinct motives consisting of hunger, curiosity, positive self-regard, fear, sex and power[grammar?]. Intrinsic motivation is defined as engaging in an activity for the pleasure and satisfaction that one experiences while learning, exploring or attempting to understand something new, the focus is not on the result but on the process of accomplishing something (Vallerand, 2008). Intrinsic motivation can also be used to experience stimulation, [grammar?] one may participate in an activity to experience a pleasant sensation. Whereas extrinsic motivation is the pursuit of a goal (Reiss, 2012), one engages in an activity to obtain something outside of the activity, not for the inherent pleasure they may experience (Vallerand, 2008){{gr}.

What Motivates Hostage Negotiators

The hostage negotiator is motivated by achieving maximum profits from this negotiation situation (Druckman & Olekalns, 2012). If someone who has taken an individual hostage perceives themselves as standing apart from the authorities, they are likely to focus solely on their outcomes, but if the hostage taker has recognized how dependent their relationship is they are more likely to search for solutions that benefit both parties. (Gelfand et al., 2006). Negotiators in this crisis situation need to ensure they are both focusing on their own goals and also convincing the hostage taker that their goals and being acknowledged, this aids in a solution being met[grammar?]. Perceived similarity moves others into our ‘‘in-group’’ and this fosters a greater willingness to cooperate (Kramer, Brewer, & Hanna 1996), when the negotiator utilizes empathy to create a trustworthy relationship the hostage taker may be more willing to negotiate, allowing a positive outcome to possibly arise.

What Motivates Hostage Takers

figure 3. Possible motivations for a hostage taker.

An individual that decides to take one or more people hostage may have many underlying motivations. The motivations include but are not limited to: political extremism, money, and mental illness[factual?] (see figure 3).

  • Political extremism

Political terrorists take hostages for four basic reasons as defined by Fuselier (1988):

  1. Attempt to show the public that the government cannot protect its citizens.
  2. To guarantee immediate media coverage and publicity for their cause.
  3. To support their hope that after repeated incidents the government will overreact and place restrictions on its citizens, therefore, causing civil dissatisfaction and unrest.
  4. To demand the release of the members that belong to their group that have been incarcerated by the government
Case study
Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney.

On the morning of the 15th of December 2014, at around 8:30 am a man by the name of Haron Monis walked into the Lindt Café on martin place in the hustle and bustle of Sydney’s business district. Monis single-handedly held ten customers and eight employees hostage for a total of 16 hours. He was armed with a sawed-off shotgun. He ordered some of his hostages to hold up a black flag, that had an Islamic creed declaring “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of God” written on it. They held this flag up against the window of the café (see figure 4). One of Monis’ demands was to speak to the current Australian prime minister Tony Abbot and the conversation had to be broadcast live on the radio, ultimately this request was denied[grammar?]. There was no formal negotiation communicated between the captor and the authorities, this will later be criticised by the captives' families and the media{[gr}}. The siege ended at 2 am on December 16th. Monis fired a shot towards the captives that had attempted to flee the building, and police raided the building; there followed two units of police moving into the building, storming it once they saw Monis shoot a hostage. This tragic event is a prime example of political extremism (Scott, 2020) (see figure 5).

Figure 4. The Shahada flag is displayed in the window of the Lindt cafe
Figure 5. Lindt Café siege, Martin Place, Sydney memorial.
  • Money

Money can also be a means for taking hostages (Fuselier, 1988). There is one scenario where a civilian has been taken hostage because of the criminal's inability to complete the crime or not escape in time. They may take the civilians, hostage, in an attempt to ensure their safety, essentially using a human shield. There also may be situations where individuals take someone hostage for ransom money (Phillips, 2009). This money could be used to fund terrorism, insurgency, and many other crimes. In Colombia, guerrilla groups place roadblocks on roads to randomly kidnap someone. These illegal roadblocks make people stop and become targets, they are forced out of their cars and assessed on how valuable they are in terms of raising a ransom. (Moor et al., 2001). Research has found that demanding money in non-kidnapping situations decreases the success of the negotiation by around 30-50% per cent whereas demanding money in kidnapping situations increases the success of the negotiation by 25%[factual?]. Success here is referred to from the hostage takers’ viewpoint. So if one demands money and has taken someone hostage, they are more likely to succeed in gaining the money (Gaibulloev & Sandler, 2009).

  • Mental illness

Mental illness is another factor that may lead someone to take people, hostage. A mentally ill captor is assumed to be mentally unstable and therefore highly unpredictable and impulsive. This can make it quite difficult for police negotiators to anticipate how to communicate and what is going to happen (Yokota et al 2004). A person may be responding to hallucinations or delusional beliefs, they may be trying to prove to someone that they are powerful. Or they feel like life is not worth living anymore, and that suicide is the only option, sometimes putting other people's lives at risk at the same time (Fuselier, 1988). Someone who is been diagnosed as a psychopath, or diagnosed with paranoia, schizophrenia or depression can be motivated by their disorders to release anxiety or satisfy a need by taking hostages (Faure, 2003). The fate of the victim can be predicted based on the demands being put forward by the hostage taker, regardless if it is monetary, non-monetary, transportation or information. Research shows that hostage takers making a district[say what?] demand are more likely to lead to the captive’s release than if the hostage taker makes no clear demand (Yun, 2007).


What is not a mental illness that has been recognized as a factor that leads people to take someone hostage?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

The Role Emotion Plays in Hostage Negotiation and SituationsEdit

[Provide more detail]

Defining EmotionsEdit

Figure 6. Sixteen faces expressing human emotions.

Emotions are "short-lived, feeling–purposive–expressive–bodily responses that help us adapt to the opportunities and challenges we face during important life events. When this life event of significance occurs, it creates the emotional reaction of feeling–purposive–expressive–bodily reaction to that life event." (Reeve 2018). While there are many emotions (see figure 6) only a select few find themselves in an hostage situation.

What Emotions are Involved in Hostage Negotiation Situations?Edit

In hostage situations, individuals are held hostage by someone who is highly emotional. The captor may feel a range of emotions leading up to this moment and a whole more range during this time. These emotions can consist of jealousy, anger, sadness, or frustration (Vecchi et al., 2005), just to name a few. Sadness and jealousy may be leading emotions in a situation where someone has taken a person or a spouse hostage as a result of rejection or conflict. (Vecchi et al., 2005). Anger may be very prominent in a politically motivated or a case of extremism. (Scott, 2020)

Case study
Domestic relationships

Martina and Andrew had been dating for a few months now, things were going well, and they were both very happy together[grammar?]. They are both very active and do lots of things together including going to the gym. One night they went to the gym around midnight. Aside from another couple, it was empty. Suddenly a man storms the gym, wielding a gun, shooting, and injuring Andrew. The other couple immediately ran out and called the police. This man grabs Martina, and Martina immediately identifies him as Ezekiel, her ex-boyfriend. Ezekiel is feeling extremely jealous that Martina left him for this new man, Andrew. He is in a heightened state of mind and proclaims he loves Martina and just wants to be with her. Jealousy, anger, and sadness all play prime roles in this situation, and that will have to be taken into consideration by the police when they arrive.

How Do These Emotions Affect the Hostage Negotiation Situation?Edit

A hostage negotiator will use learnt skills and utilise verbal strategies to buy time and intervene. One of the main goals of crisis/hostage negotiation is to decrease the heightened emotions of the perpetrator, and in turn, allow for rationality (Hatcher et al., 1998).

Shapiro (2002) touches on how emotions can affect our negotiation skills.  Shapiro (2002) argues 3 points, firstly emotions can affect our capacity to reach negotiation goals, secondly, emotions are a resource to communicate relational identity concerns as there is a need to know what is being negotiated between each other to ensure negotiation is done well. Thirdly, awareness of emotions and underlying concerns can enable the opposing parties to explicitly negotiate emotions and concerns in a way that furthers their negotiation goals and outcomes.

Shapiro (2002) goes on to say the ability to deal well with emotions enhances the likelihood of attaining the parties[grammar?] goals. He offers three definitions to help understand how to attain these goals. Affective satisfaction is the level of satisfaction with how the emotions they are experiencing are affecting them. When someone enters a negotiation, they believe they will be treated fairly and with respect, and if the other person does just that, treats them with respect and dignity they will feel increased enthusiasm and trust during the negotiation. This leads to a feeling of relief, which implies affective satisfaction.

Instrumental satisfaction in terms of hostage negotiation situations refers to the satisfaction of requirements. If a captor and a negotiator were to walk away from each other with positive emotions (affective satisfaction) but no positive outcome executed this would be an instrumental failure. Instrumental satisfaction would be if both the captor and negotiator could work together to agree on a goal that works for both of them.

Emotional valence and movement towards negotiation goals, negotiators induced into a positive mood are more interactive outcomes and use less violent tactics (Carnevale & Isen, 1986)[Rewrite to improve clarity]. Furthermore, Shapiro (2002) goes on to mention positive emotions can foster problem-solving and empathy with the other person’s perspective and negative emotions are linked to inaccurate judgement and less concern for the other person’s preferences, so we can decipher hostage negotiator’s need to ensure they are working to endorse positive emotions to promote a positive outcome.

Case study
Custody battle

You are a crisis negotiator for ACT policing, you are called to a situation where a woman named Linda, in a moment of pure anger and desperation, has kidnapped their daughter, you find out from Linda’s husband Theo that Linda lost custody of her kids a few weeks ago, and Theo has full custody. Linda was never happy about this and thinks that if she can't have them, no one can. You as a human being are horrified at the situation, but as the negotiator, you know you have to communicate with Linda and this is going to involve you convincing Linda that you feel her pain, you empathise with her and understand why she is doing what she is doing. This is emotional valence for negotiation goals.


Picture this, you have taken hostage of a bank! When a negotiator starts communicating with you, in this instance over the phone, you believe they are not listening to you and your demands, they are invalidating your feelings about why you did this in the first place! You start to feel resentful and annoyed; this is not how you want to feel, and you begin to become annoyed[awkward expression?] at your feelings of resentment and annoyance.

Are you feeling affective satisfaction?



Hostage negotiation is a vital part of law enforcement, while everyone has a superficial knowledge of this topic, this chapter allows the reader to dive deeper into negotiation theory[grammar?].

Political extremism, money and mental illness are just some of the possible motivational factors for an individual to take someone hostage. We see this today in modern terrorism e.g., the Lindt Café siege. An individual kidnapping someone for ransom is an example of money as a motivator. We see mental illness being a motivator when someone is suffering from perhaps paranoia or schizophrenia and is battling hallucinations and delusions. A desirable outcome in the eyes of the law is one of safety and protection, hostage negotiators must understand the motivations behind the hostage taker to design an empathetic meticulous approach to ensure a positive outcome[grammar?].

Emotions are powerful, therefore they can impact a situation with high intensity, such as a hostage situation. Jealousy, anger, sadness, and frustration commonly arise from a hostage taker. It is the hostage negotiator’s job to decrease the heightened emotions of the hostage taker and elicit positive emotions to foster a problem-solving environment.

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Take home message: If a hostage negotiator can work to understand the motivations and emotions involved in these high-intensity hostage situations they have an increased chance of achieving the greatest outcome.

See alsoEdit


Bolz Jr, F. A. (2001). Intelligence requirements in hostage situations. Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations, 1(1), 61-68.

Brett, J. M., & Gelfand, M. J. (2006). A cultural analysis of the underlying assumptions of negotiation theory. Negotiation theory and research, 173-201.

Carnevale, P. J., & Isen, A. M. (1986). The influence of positive affect and visual access on the discovery of integrative solutions in bilateral negotiation. Organizational behavior and human decision Processes, 37(1), 1-13.

Druckman, D., & Olekalns, M. (2008). Emotions in negotiation. Group Decision and Negotiation, 17(1), 1-11. DOI 10.1007/s10726-007-9091-9

Faure, G. O. (2011). Negotiating with political, ideological, and criminal terrorists. In Jornadas secuestros y toma de rehenes por parte de grupos terroristas: prevención y respuestas (pp. 1-28). Fundación Manuel Giménez Abad de Estudios Parlamentarios y del Estado Autonómico.

Faure, G. O. (2003). Negotiating with terrorists: The hostage case. International Negotiation, 8(3), 469-494.

Fuselier, G. D. (1988). Hostage negotiation consultant: Emerging role for the clinical psychologist. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 19(2), 175.

Gaibulloev, K., & Sandler, T. (2009). Hostage taking: Determinants of terrorist logistical and negotiation success. Journal of Peace Research, 46(6), 739-756. DOI 10.1177/0022343309339249

Gelfand, M. J., Major, V. S., Raver, J. L., Nishii, L. H., & O'Brien, K. (2006). Negotiating relationally: The dynamics of the relational self in negotiations. Academy of Management Review, 31(2), 427-451.

Hatcher, C., Mohandie, K., Turner, J., & Gelles, M. G. (1998). The role of the psychologist in crisis/hostage negotiations. Behavioral sciences & the law, 16(4), 455-472.;2-G

Kramer, R. M., Brewer, M. B., & Hanna, B. A. (1996). Collective trust and collective action. Trust in organizations: Frontiers of theory and research, 357-389.,+R.,+M.+Brewer,+and+B.+Hanna.+1996.&ots=1bIo1W-9Mg&sig=kNIcbao2Kl5r9DFt1p63djlugc0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Kuhn, A. K. (1942). The execution of hostages. American Journal of International Law, 36(2), 271-274.

Moor, M., Zumpolle, L., & Afdeling Nederland Pax Christi International. (2001). The kidnap industry in Colombia: Our business?. Utrecht,, Netherlands: Pax Christi Netherlands.

Murillo, L. (2022). Harvey Schlossberg (1936–2021). American Psychologist, 77(5), 718.

Phillips, E. (2009). The business of kidnap for ransom. The faces of terrorism: Multidisciplinary perspectives, 189-207.

Reeve, J. (2018). Understanding motivation and emotion. John Wiley & Sons.

Reiss, S. (2012). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Teaching of psychology, 39(2), 152-156. DOI: 10.1177/0098628312437704

Reiss, S. (2004). Multifaceted nature of intrinsic motivation: The theory of 16 basic desires. Review of general psychology, 8(3), 179-193. DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.8.3.179

Riegler, T. (2010). Through the lenses of Hollywood: depictions of terrorism in American movies. Perspectives on Terrorism, 4(2), 35-45.

Royce, T. (2004). The negotiator and the bomber: Analyzing the critical role of active listening in crisis negotiations. Negotiation Journal, 21(1), 5-27.

Scott, R. (2020). The Sydney Lindt café siege: The role of the consultant psychiatrist. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 54(3), 244-258.

Shapiro, D. L. (2002). Negotiating emotions. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 20(1), 67-82.

Soskis, D. A., & Van Zandt, C. R. (1986). Hostage negotiation: Law enforcement's most effective nonlethal weapon. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 4(4), 423-435.

Stokes, T., & Thompson, R. A. (2005). Book Review: Crisis Negotiations: Managing Critical Incidents and Hostage Situations in Law Enforcement and Corrections. Criminal Justice Review, 30(2), 246-248.

Vallerand, R. J. (1997). Toward a hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 29, pp. 271-360). Academic Press.

Van Hasselt, V. B., Romano, S. J., & Vecchi, G. M. (2008). Role playing: Applications in hostage and crisis negotiation skills training. Behavior modification, 32(2), 248-263.

Vecchi, G. M., Van Hasselt, V. B., & Romano, S. J. (2005). Crisis (hostage) negotiation: Current strategies and issues in high-risk conflict resolution. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10(5), 533-551.

Yokota, K., Iwami, H., Watanabe, K., Fujita, G., & Watanabe, S. (2004). High risk factors of hostage barricade incidents in a Japanese sample. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 1(2), 139-151. DOI: 10.1002/jip.011

Yun, M. (2007). Hostage taking and kidnapping in terrorism: Predicting the fate of a hostage. Professional issues in criminal justice, 2(1), 23-40.

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