An examination of social-psychological factors and support for the death penalty: Attribution, moral disengagement, and the value-expressive function of attitudes

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Abstract

This study examines the social-psychological factors of attributional styles, moral disengagement, and the value-expressive function of attitudes in relation to death penalty support and the robustness of that support. Respondents were first asked whether or not they supported the death penalty and were then presented several paragraphs of information exposing flaws or failures in the death penalty and asked how compelling they found the information and whether it impacted their death penalty attitudes. Results suggest that attributional style has little if any effect on death penalty support and that only a few aspects of moral disengagement seem to play a role. Value-expressiveness, on the other hand, appears to play a critical role in death penalty attitudes and support. Our findings suggest that when support is based on value-expressive foundations, it is more robust and unlikely to wane regardless of information or knowledge indicating problems with the death penalty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-36
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican Journal of Criminal Justice
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010

Keywords

  • Capital punishment
  • Death penalty
  • Death penalty attitudes
  • Moral disengagement
  • Value expressive attitudes

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