Belief systems and attitudes toward the death penalty and other punishments


Requests for reprints should be sent to O J Harvey, Department of psychology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309


This study focused on the relationship of belief systems as a configural construct and conservatism-liberalism to attitudes toward the death penalty and other punishments for offenses of varying severity Extrapersonalists, the most concretely functioning of the four conceptual or belief systems posited by Harvey, Hunt, and Schroder (1961), were most in favor of the death penalty They also endorsed the most severe punishment for a variety of crimes, to a particularly greater extent than did representatives of either of the two more abstractly functioning systems

The belief dimensions of Openness, Evaluativeness, and Complexity, as well as the frequency of church attendance, correlated more highly and consistently with attitudes toward punishment than did either Conservatism-Liberalism or gender Both of the latter variables failed to correlate with a number of the outcome variables and related at only low levels to the others

The greater predictive power of a configural conception of personality or belief systems over a unidimensional conception seems to have been demonstrated Configural concepts may additionally be generally superior to multidimensional concepts treated linearly