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Second, the externalized condition yielded slightly different effects depending on whether punishment was assessed using a qualitative versus quantitative scale.

Crime, Punishment, and the Psychology of Self-Control |

Specifically, punishments when costs were externalized significantly exceeded those under the direct cost conditions for the qualitative measure, confirming our predictions. Yet punishments in the externalized condition were not discernibly greater than those of the direct cost conditions when measured on the quantitative sentencing scale.

Part Two. Humanities and Justice Electives

One reason for this discrepancy could be that the sentencing scale prompted participants to think more deeply and perhaps empathetically about the substantial cost to the putative third party. Another possibility is that something about the sentencing scale prompted people to question the face validity of the externalized cost scenario. Third, individual differences in executive functioning were not observed.

A plausible alternative is that online assessment of individual differences in executive functioning is less sensitive than testing in the laboratory because in online studies the experimenter cannot control the environment and participants can be easily distracted. Such factors may have limited our response variability.

Broader, more random samples or additional testing using different modalities would help to determine whether such individual differences exist but were missed. Fourth, the crime scenarios constructed for this study were both moderate in seriousness because we expected that cost discounting would be most dramatic in this range. We would expect that punishments of more serious crimes would be less cost responsive because they will more strongly reflect categorical, moralistic motives. Future studies should actively test this possibility as a part of a search for the boundary conditions of punishment cost discounting.

Fifth, our focus on the costs of incarceration did not permit investigation of other, opposing decision factors, such as the societal costs of releasing a potentially dangerous offender e. We theorized that the costs of release are already salient by default, and our study design assumed that variation in participants' attitudes about these costs would be randomly distributed across conditions. However, testing these assumptions experimentally—for instance, by including a separate condition in which the costs of release are made salient—could help to determine the relative strength of each of these cues on an equal playing field and could help identify where people's default punishment attitudes lie.

Finally, in real life, lay people are not typically asked to make sentencing recommendations other than capital juries , but they elect judges who do, and they may cast votes for new sentencing programs and policies, underscoring the great importance of lay sentencing attitudes. In our study, we chose to limit the degree of realism in our stimuli and measures to capture these attitudes with high sensitivity and control. Still, like all survey experiments, our study cannot completely rule out demand characteristics such as strategic attempts to affirm or deny the study hypothesis.

Future studies should address such issues by considering more realistic stimuli and more implicit and consequential methods of assessing punishment behavior, such as economic games. We imagine that the elasticity of punishment could be even more pronounced in such contexts. Imagine you are the judge in a criminal trial. The jury has already found the defendant guilty of Home Invasion. Your job is to decide how much the defendant should be punished, if at all.

Application and Scope

First, you will read a summary of the case. Next, you will consider a level of punishment. Your punishment recommendation should be based on your personal opinion, not what you think the court would expect you to say. Then, you will be asked questions about your decision, but you may not go back to previous pages, so please take your time and read the entire case summary carefully.

Last, you will complete a numerical memory task and will be asked a few questions about yourself such as age, race, and gender. Mr Edwards approached Mrs Verona's sliding glass door, smashed the glass using a flashlight, and entered the house. Mrs Verona testified that she woke up to the noise, called the police, and remained upstairs in her bedroom behind a locked door. From her bedroom window, Mrs Verona saw Mr Edwards getting in a grey sedan with a laptop and other electronics.

Style of Interpretation

Verona noted the make and model of Mr Edwards' car, and the police arrested Mr Edwards and recovered the property later that night. Mr Edwards has no prior arrests. Drag the slider anywhere on the scale. Edwards receive for this offense? Answer options are shown in the total number of years. You can place the slider anywhere below, including between labels. Before you announce Mr Edwards' sentence, you read the newly released government report of prison expenses in your county.

All combined, taxpayers in your state pay over a billion dollars each year in prison costs. The state's corrections budget can also be spent on job training for those at risk. Every dollar saved on prison is a dollar that instead can be spent on building better job opportunities. Before learning this new information about the cost of prison, you recommended that Mr Edwards receive a prison sentence of [X] years.

You now have the option of changing that response with the slider, or you can keep it the same by clicking the checkbox on the right. Now imagine that the annual cost of prison is going to increase next year, according to the government report. Your job is to decide the punishment for an offender who committed a home invasion just like Mr Edwards.

Each question below asks you to consider what the sentence should be for different prison cost amounts. Please select your punishment for each cost amount below. Remember that the expenses must be paid by the taxpayers in your state. As before, answer options are shown in total number of years and you can place the slider anywhere, including between labels.

Edwards receive [X] years in prison for home invasion. Imagine prison costs will be paid by private sources. Under this assumption, how much time in prison should Mr Edwards receive for this offense?


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You can keep the prison sentence the same by clicking the checkbox on the right. Mr Frank Jones has been convicted of one count of aggravated robbery. At the trial, the following evidence was presented. Mr Jones is seen on video surveillance walking into the store. Mr Jones took an item from the refrigerator and brought it to the counter.

Mr Jones handed a bill to the cashier, who was the only other person in the store. The cashier opened the register and then walked into an adjacent workroom to get change. Mr Jones then walked around the counter and put all the bills from the cash register into an empty backpack. The cashier then returned to the area behind the counter, standing in between Mr Jones and the exit.


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  4. Mr Jones pushed the cashier out of his way, knocking her to the floor. Mr Jones then fled through the exit door. The cashier was taken to the nearest hospital, where she was diagnosed with a concussion and required 4 stitches. It states:.

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    Under the new program, the costs of incarceration are now paid by a government surplus acquired from outside sources, not from taxpayers. Taxpayers no longer pay any costs of incarceration. Volume 37 , Issue 1. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

    If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Eyal Aharoni Corresponding Author E-mail address: eaharoni gsu.

    Heather M. Sarah F. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access.

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    Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Abstract This study investigated the effect of cost—benefit salience on simulated criminal punishment judgments. Figure 1 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Change in recommended prison time as a function of explicit cost information. Figure 2 Open in figure viewer PowerPoint. Differences in recommended punishment as a function of cost type. No other differences were observed. Experiment 1 Instructions Imagine you are the judge in a criminal trial.

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    Crime, Punishment, and the Psychology of Self-Control |

    Experiment 2 Case summary Mr Frank Jones has been convicted of one count of aggravated robbery. Investigating frame strength: The case of episodic and thematic frames. Political Communication , 28 2 , — Google Scholar. Crossref Google Scholar. Figures References Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password?