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The influence of internal versus external attributions of crime causality: A comparison between experts, semi-experts and lay-people.

Murray, Jennifer; Thomson, Mary E


Mary E Thomson


The overarching aim of the present research was to investigate the possible effects of attribution on the decisions made by clinicians in comparison to those made by trainee psychologists and lay-people. A 3x3x2 mixed groups design was implemented, with the variables: clinical experience (expert, semi-expert, lay-person), crime type (murder, assault, armed robbery) and scenario manipulation (internal/external attribution). Participants read nine crime scenarios, which were developed based on real case notes and supplemented with information on specific offender characteristics (see Grant et al, 2001; Normandeau, 1972; Quinsey & Cyr, 1986). Scenarios were either internally or externally manipulated, with participants being blind to this manipulation. For each scenario participants were asked to rate offender dangerousness, likelihood of re-offending, seriousness of crime and suggest a suitable sentence length. McAuley et al’s (1992) Revised Causal Dimension Scale was employed after each scenario in order to assess the effectiveness of the internal/external manipulations. 3x3x2 ANOVA’s were employed to investigate the main factors of interest, with the IV’s: clinical experience, crime type and scenario manipulation. Significant interactions were found in both the recommendations of dangerousness and offender responsibility. Findings indicate that semi-experts are less subject to the influence of internal/external manipulations of crime scenarios than both experts and lay people. Marked similarities in the pattern of expert and lay-person judgments can be observed from the present analyses. The current findings suggest that on-going training relating to decision making biases may help to decrease the effects of attribution in clinical decision making.

Conference Name Plymouth Postgraduate Symposium: Building Bridges in Social Science Research
Start Date May 15, 2009
End Date May 15, 2009
Publication Date May 15, 2009
Deposit Date Feb 17, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 17, 2015
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Attribution; crime causality; clinical decision-making;
Public URL
Contract Date Feb 17, 2015