Implicit theories and offender representativeness in judgments about sexual crime

Harper, Craig and Bartels, Ross (2017) Implicit theories and offender representativeness in judgments about sexual crime. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment . ISSN 1079-0632

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Abstract

Implicit theories structure the way people understand and respond to various human actions. Typically, people believe attributes are either fixed (entitists) or malleable (incrementalists). The present study aimed to examine (a) whether attitudes toward sexual offenders differ depending upon one’s implicit theory about human nature and sexual offenders, and (b) whether implicit theories are associated with judgments made about different types of child abusers. A sample of 252 community participants was recruited. Their attitudes, implicit theories, and political orientation were assessed via self-report. One of three vignettes describing an incidence of child sexual abuse was then presented. The cases were identical except the perpetrator was either an adult male, an adult female, or a male juvenile. Participants then made judgments about the offender’s deserved sentence and moral character. Entitists (across both domains) held more negative attitudes than incrementalists, although the magnitude of the difference was greatest when examining implicit theories about sexual offenders. Compared with those with an incremental theory of sexual offenders, entity theorists judged sexual offending to be more (a) indicative of the perpetrator’s moral character and (b) deserving of punishment. However, scores were greater toward the adult male relative to the adult female and juvenile. The findings suggest that implicit theories about sexual offenders are domain specific. They also indicate that judgments made by those with an entity theory (about sexual offenders) are affected by whether a case is representative of a stereotypical sexual offender. Implications of the findings are discussed, along with limitations and future research.

Keywords:implicit theories, representativeness heuristic, sexual offenders, public attitudes, schema
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C880 Social Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C810 Applied Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C890 Psychology not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
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ID Code:23362
Deposited On:09 Jul 2016 18:31

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