Attributions for Blue-Collar and White-Collar Crime: The Effects of Subject and Defendant Race on Simulated Juror Decisions1


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    The author would like to express his appreciation to Brigette Almonor, Carol Burton, and Jacqueline Jones for their assistance with data collection and to Bruce Henderson and two anonymous reviewers for comments on previous versions of this manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Randall A. Gordon, Department of Psychology and Mental Health, University of Minnesota, Duluth, 320 Bohannon Hall, 10 University Drive, Duluth, MN 55812-2496.


Ninety-six undergraduate and graduate students participated in a study that examined the effects of subject and defendant race on attributions made for a blue-collar (burglary) and a white-collar (embezzlement) crime. It was predicted that attributions for race stereotypic defendants (e.g., a white embezzler) would be internal (dispositional), that attributions for race nonstereotypic defendants (e.g., a black embezzler) would be external, and that attributions would be related to jail sentences. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive one of four crime descriptions that varied in terms of defendant race (black or white) and type of crime (burglary or embezzlement) committed. Subjects were subsequently asked to recommend jail sentences and to respond to items regarding the probable cause of the defendant's behavior. As predicted, race stereotypic crimes were perceived as being due to internal factors and the hypothesized relationship between attributions and jail sentences received partial support. The application of attributional models to the study of juror decision- making is discussed.