In a storefront window in Warsaw, Poland, stood at what first glance appeared to be a mannequin in a mustard-colored sweatshirt.
Only it was not a mannequin, but a 22-year-old man. He stood motionless with his arm outstretched holding a shopping bag, beside two real mannequins in jeans. Once the store closed, the man leaped into action, stealing jewelry, according to the Warsaw police.
In a separate incident, the police said, after the shopping center closed, he ate at one of the bars, changed into a new set of clothes and then escaped under the store’s partly open gate. Later, he returned to the bar for a second meal.
It will most likely be his last meal at the shopping center for some time. The police have arrested the man and charged him with theft and burglary, they said in a statement on Wednesday. The statement did not specify when the incidents occurred.
The saga of the man posing as a mannequin adds to the list of creative strategies that criminals have used to try to evade detection.
A failed bank robbery in 1995 that involved using lemon juice as a disguise inspired David Dunning, then a Cornell professor of social psychology, and Justin Kruger, a graduate student at the time, to coin the Dunning-Kruger effect. According to their theory, our incompetence masks the ability to recognize our own incompetence. The theory usually refers to the inability to spot one’s own low expertise in a subject area, but it can also apply to specific mistakes.
Professor Dunning said that the man caught pretending to be a mannequin exemplified the theory since he was aware of the risks he faced, including that security cameras could capture his every move in real time. “If people choose a course of action, they think it will work,” he said in an email. “Of course, it does not always do so.”
The suspect in Warsaw faces up to 10 years in prison. He was also accused of committing thefts and burglaries at another location, the police said.