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Investigating the relationship between justice-vengeance motivations and punitive sentencing recommendations: Justice-vengeance motivations

Murray, Jennifer; Thomson, Mary E.; Cooke, David J.; Charles, Kathy E.


Mary E. Thomson

David J. Cooke

Kathy E. Charles


Purpose. The present research investigated the relationship between underlying justice and vengeance motivations and sentencing recommendations made by expert clinicians, semi-experts, and lay-people. It was hypothesized that the semi-experts would recommend significantly different sentence lengths from those recommended by the expert and lay-person groups, in line with previous research findings. It was also hypothesized that justice and vengeance motivations would be related to punitive sentencing recommendations, and that these would not be the same across the three levels of expertise.

Method. An independent groups design was utilized in the main analysis, with participants belonging to three distinct levels of clinical experience (experts, semi-experts, and lay-people). A questionnaire was administered, with participants being measured on levels of justice and vengeance motivations, and asked to recommend appropriate sentence lengths based on nine separate crime-scenarios. These covariables were correlated and the correlation coefficients were compared across the three levels of expertise.

Results. The former hypothesis was not upheld. Findings do, however, support the latter hypothesis, with the key finding indicating that for both justice and vengeance motivations in punitive judgement, it is the lay-participants who appear distinct from the experts and semi-experts.

Conclusions. The current findings emphasize that while expert and lay-person judgements may often appear to be the same, different processes and motivations underlying clinical judgements are occurring at the different stages of expertise. With the differences in the relationships between justice and vengeance motivations and judgements found in the current research, it is argued that expert and lay judgements that appear to be the same are, in fact, distinguishable and are related to quite different underlying motivations and decision-making processes.


Murray, J., Thomson, M. E., Cooke, D. J., & Charles, K. E. (2013). Investigating the relationship between justice-vengeance motivations and punitive sentencing recommendations: Justice-vengeance motivations. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 18(1), 1-15.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jun 16, 2011
Publication Date 2013-02
Deposit Date Jun 25, 2012
Publicly Available Date Jun 25, 2012
Journal Legal and Criminological Psychology
Print ISSN 1355-3259
Electronic ISSN 2044-8333
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 1
Pages 1-15
Keywords Applied Psychology; Pathology and Forensic Medicine
Public URL
Publisher URL


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