The study was supported by a research grant (11/74179-2) from the German Volkswagen Foundation.
Punitive Reactions to Completed Crimes Versus Accidentally Uncompleted Crimes1
Article first published online: 31 JUL 2006
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 35, Issue 4, pages 718–731, April 2005
How to Cite
Oswald, M. E., Orth, U., Aeberhard, M. and Schneider, E. (2005), Punitive Reactions to Completed Crimes Versus Accidentally Uncompleted Crimes. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35: 718–731. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2005.tb02143.x
- Issue published online: 31 JUL 2006
- Article first published online: 31 JUL 2006
Previous studies have shown that the harm caused by crime affects punitive reactions even if differences in the degree of harm are merely accidental. However, it remains unclear whether the effect is direct or whether it is mediated by attributed responsibility or blame. Participants were 303 university students who listened to 4 case vignettes (between-subjects design). Half received information about a completed crime and half about an accidentally uncompleted crime. Crime type was either fraud or rape. The results suggest that individuals consider the actual harm to a significantly greater extent than attribution theory would predict. Moreover, the link between harm and punishment was virtually not mediated by attributed blame and not moderated by individual differences in morality. Future studies should investigate whether the harm-punishment link is a result of an automatic act of retaliation or a desire to compensate for the harm done to the victim (restorative justice).