A new study has just been published in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research & Treatment by FCRG members Craig Harper and Dr Ross Bartels, entitled “Implicit Theories and Offender Representativeness in Judgments About Sexual Crime“.

Using a sample of 252 community participants, the paper examines the interacting effect of implicit theories about sexual offenders and offender type (i.e., adult male; adult female; or male juvenile) on judgements of moral character and sentencing. The results showed that people with an entity implicit theory about sexual offenders (i.e., believing they cannot change) held more negative attitudes towards sexual offenders than did those with incremental implicit theories (believing sex offenders change).

Moreover, compared with those with an incremental implicit theory of sexual offenders, entity theorists judged sexual offending to be: (a) more indicative of the perpetrator’s moral character; and (b) more deserving of punishment. However, these scores were greater in relation to the adult male offender than the adult female and juvenile offender. Finally, a greater number of participants with an entity implicit theory provided dispositional explanations for the perpetrator’s offending behaviour than did the incrementalists, who provided more situational explanations.

The study indicates that implicit theories about sexual offenders affect judgements about sexual offenders, although for entitists, this is moderated by whether the case they are judging is representative of a stereotypical sexual offender.

For more information, please contact with Craig Harper at craigaharper19@gmail.com or Dr Ross Bartels at rbartels@lincoln.ac.uk