Implicit theories and offender representativeness in judgments about sexual crime

Harper, C.A. ORCID: 0000-0002-3172-0129 and Bartels, R.M., 2016. 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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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 towards 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 abuser. 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 to 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 towards 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.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment
Creators: Harper, C.A. and Bartels, R.M.
Publisher: Sage
Date: 1 July 2016
ISSN: 1079-0632
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Depositing User: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 15 Sep 2016 15:46
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2017 11:12

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