FCRG member – Dr Ross Bartels (along with associate member Dr Craig Harper) – have just had a new paper published in the Journal of Sexual Aggression entitled “The influence of implicit theories and offender characteristics on judgements of sexual offenders: A moderated-mediation analysis”.
Negative attitudes towards sexual offenders are typically related to harsher policy judgements (e.g., perceiving sexual offenders as deserving very harsh punishments). This new study extends this line of research by examining two factors that affect people’s judgements of sexual offenders; namely, the representativeness heuristic (i.e., how much the sex offender in a particular case matches the stereotype of a sex offender) and implicit theories about sexual offenders (i.e., the extent to which people believe perpetrators of sexual offences are fixed in their ways).
Using a sample of 252 community participants, Harper and Bartels found that the relationship between attitudes towards sexual offenders and policy judgements were mediated by implicit theories about sexual offenders (i.e., the relationship was stronger the more participants believed sex offenders cannot change). However, the mediation effect was moderated by the type of child sex offender they were judging. That is, no mediation effect was found when the case involved an adult female or a male juvenile perpetrator. From this, the authors argue that the relationship between attitudes and policy judgements is contingent on the activation of a ‘sexual offender stereotype’, but that this link can be disrupted if presented with a non-stereotypical case.
The journal has allowed for 50 free reads of the paper – which can be found by clicking here