Exploring the relationship between attitude and empathy towards offenders: The Impact of mental illness and offence type

Lumsdale, Erin and Onwuegbusi, Tochukwu (2019) Exploring the relationship between attitude and empathy towards offenders: The Impact of mental illness and offence type. In: Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference (18-20 June) hosted at Crowne Plaza Liverpool, 14 - 16 June 2016, Liverpool.

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Objectives: To explore how different types of mental illness can influence the general public’s attitude and empathy towards varying types of offenders. It was hypothesised that attitude will be associated with empathy scores, negative towards all types of offenders and that the type of mental illness will have an influence on empathy score.

Design: A mixed factorial design was used whereby all participants completed an attitude scale and an empathy scale, but only some were exposed to mental illness conditions. This procedure was adopted to explicitly view the differences between offence and mental illness types.

Methods: A total of 100 participants completed online questionnaire measuring the Attitude Towards Sex Offenders scale which was adapted also for violent offenders and terrorists, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and a hypothetical vignette created for the purpose of the study. A correlational, mixed factorial ANOVA, and 2-way ANCOVA’s analysis were performed.

Results: A positive correlation between attitude score and empathy score prior to and after vignette exposure was found. Significantly more positive attitudes and higher empathy was shown towards violent offenders compared to sex offenders or terrorists. However, a significant increase in empathy following the vignette was exhibited by those assigned to the terrorist condition. Furthermore, significantly higher empathy ratings were identified towards offenders with schizophrenia, and significantly lower empathy ratings were identified towards offenders with no mental illness.

Conclusions: This study has revealed the link between attitude and empathy and demonstrated how different mental illnesses can have an effect on the empathy individuals display towards different offence types, particularly terrorists.

Keywords:Attitudes, Empathy, Mental illness, Terrorism, Sex Offenders, Violence Offenders
Subjects: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
ID Code:37289
Deposited On:28 Oct 2019 09:51

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