This research was completed by the first author for a M.S. thesis in clinical psychology. The second author was thesis director. Mike Baldwin is now at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY.
Effects of Severity of Accident, Intent, and “Alcoholism is a Disease” Excuse on Judgments of a Drunk Driver1
Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 24, Issue 23, pages 2097–2109, December 1994
How to Cite
Baldwin, M. R. and Kleike, C. L. (1994), Effects of Severity of Accident, Intent, and “Alcoholism is a Disease” Excuse on Judgments of a Drunk Driver. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24: 2097–2109. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1994.tb00576.x
- Issue online: 31 JUL 2006
- Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
One hundred fifty-five women and 122 men read scenarios of an accident caused by a male drunk driver. The severity of the accident was either high (death) or low (monetary damage). In addition, the driver either expressed or denied intent (he admitted or denied knowing he was drunk before deciding to drive) and the driver either accepted responsibility for the accident or used the excuse that alcoholism is a disease beyond his control. On trait ratings, the driver was evaluated as being more reckless and as feeling greater emotion when the accident was severe. The driver who used the “alcoholism is a disease” excuse was evaluated as being less sincere and more reckless than the driver who accepted responsibility for the accident. On attributional ratings, the driver was rated as deserving greater punishment when the accident was severe. On sanctions, only severity of the accident influenced recommended fines and prison sentences for the driver. This study was consistent with previous research showing that recommended punishment for a drunk driver who caused an accident is primarily a function of accident severity.