Does the Onset Controllability of Diagnostic Labels Affect the Perceived Appropriateness of an Insanity Verdict?1


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    Parts of this paper were presented at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, April 31-May 2, 1998. I wish to thank Amy Russell and Emily Fleeter for their assistance in data collection. Thanks also to Nancy Walker, Gary Stasser, Gordon Allen, Beth Dietz-Uhler, and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Theresa Doyon, who is now at the Law/Psychology Program. Psychology Department, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. NE 68588-0308.


The present study attempted to look at reactions to an insanity verdict by asking participants to rate the appropriateness of an insanity verdict already handed down by a jury. A sample of 196 adults read a short vignette describing the defendant's crime, a courtappointed psychiatrist's diagnosis, and a jury's verdict (guilty; or not guilty by reason of insanity, NGRI). Using Weiner's (1995) responsibility model, it was predicted and found that an insanity verdict was deemed less appropriate when the defendant was construed to have an onset controllable disorder. Path analyses indicate that onset controllability, responsibility judgments, and affective reactions do not account for the perceived appropriateness of guilty and NGRI verdicts in the same way.