If you're going to successfully steal a car, what are the skills you need to acquire?
Of course, you need to know how to open locked car doors, and hotwire engines. But the biggest challenge for would-be car thieves is psychological. To steal a car and not get caught immediately requires a high degree of emotional self-control.
Criminologists Michael Cherbonneau and Heith Copes interviewed 54 car thieves from Tennessee and Louisiana and published the findings in a paper entitled "Drive it like you stole it; Auto theft and the illusion of normalcy." It turns out that dealing with the overwhelming rush that comes after the car has been stolen is the biggest problem for a thief. As one offender says, "That’s where the adrenalin is, it’s in the drive. The actual theft is really no big deal."
This emotional control is especially important if and when the driver has an encounter with a cop. From the study:
Some car thieves often respond to the physiological arousal of police encounters by ‘covering their concern with a tightly held cloak of unconcern’, but to over-perform complacency invites suspicion and magnetizes observers doubt as ‘[t]hose who treat the presence of the police as other than normal are seen as other than normal themselves’. A delicate balance must be struck.
Hat tip: the indispensable Mind Hacks.