The Consequences of Acting on Impulse: Psycho (1960)

psychoAn impulse is “a sudden strong and unreflective urge or desire to act.”1 In Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) makes an impulsive decision: She steals $40,000 from Tom Cassidy (Frank Albertson), and plans to run away. The film shows how acting on impulse can have consequences that are devastating.

Marion steals $40,000 to solve a problem in her relationship with Sam Loomis (John Gavin). She wants to marry him, but he won’t marry her because he can barely support himself financially. With a struggling business and obligated to pay alimony to his ex-wife, he can’t provide for her if she wants to have children. Marion takes the money because she believes it will give her and Sam financial freedom. In 1960, $40,000 was a small fortune, worth $330,437.84 today.2

When Marion goes on the run, she doesn’t consider the consequences. However, the following day, she imagines what the likely consequences might be. After reflecting on her decision, Marion decides to go home and give the money back. When a person takes time to think about the possible consequences, they are more likely to make a wise choice.

Unfortunately, Marion’s impulsive decision has consequences that are unforeseeable. During a rainstorm, she stops by chance at the Bates Motel, and meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Her tragic death serves as a warning: Bad things can happen to good people when they make one bad choice. Marion is an innocent victim, but if she hadn’t taken the money, she never would have met Norman, a “psycho” who is controlled by violent impulses.

Marion’s actions reveal three reasons why people make impulsive decisions: They have an overpowering desire; they act quickly, and don’t think logically. While it is possible to make an impulsive decision, and not suffer any negative consequences, the individual who fails to think before acting risks making a serious mistake. There is, however, a silver lining to acting on impulse. If the consequences are negative, you may learn a lesson that you will never forget.

Notes

  1. Oxford Living Dictionaries, s.v. “impulse,” accessed July 4, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/impulse
  2. US Inflation Calculator, accessed July 4, 2017, http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/