Differing perceptions of criminal behavior: sexual assault versus violent non-sexual crimes

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in General Psychology


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Dario N. Rodriguez


Previous research has examined how people attribute blame to individuals in crime scenarios and the effects of different crimes on victims. This study examined the effects of Crime Type (i.e. rape and violent non-sexual assault), Perpetrator Age, and Perpetrator-Victim Relationship on observers' feelings of disgust, attributions of responsibility, and their recommended sentence length. University of Dayton psychology undergraduates read a crime scenario that varied according to the above factors and answered questions assessing their level of disgust, recommended sentence length, willingness to be associated with the perpetrator, belief in a just world (BJW), rape myth acceptance (RMA), and their attributions of responsibility for the perpetrator and victim. Participants endorsed higher levels of disgust for rape than for violent non-sexual assault, and recommended longer prison sentences for a perpetrator who was older (vs. younger) and an acquaintance (vs. a stranger). These results indicate that participants viewed older offenders the most negatively, and therefore these offenders may experience difficulty during reintegration.


Rapists Public opinion, Violent offenders Public opinion, Older offenders Public opinion, Undergraduates Attitudes, Psychology, criminal behavior, sexual assault, rape, perceptions

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Copyright © 2014, author