Rape, money, and the psychology of taboo

Francis X. Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Policy and legal decision making sometimes requires difficult assessments about how to translate the harm of sexual assault into dollar amounts. A web-based experiment (n=743) was designed to test the psychology of taboo theory in this important context. The experiment included two unique features. First, subjects were randomly assigned to assess vignettes in either a dollar metric, a 7-point harm scale metric, or a years-in-jail metric. Second, subjects were given the opportunity, but not required, to provide a comment when making their assessment. Assignment to the dollar metric treatment group resulted in subjects freely expressing significantly more constitutive incommensurability comments. The effect was most pronounced when the level of sexual assault in the vignette was greatest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1015-1028
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


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