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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 183437 Find in a Library
Title: Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Communication: The Efforts of Using Actual Cases, Providing Instruction, and Employing Probability Versus Frequency Formats
Journal: Law and Human Behavior  Volume:24  Issue:3  Dated:June 2000  Pages:271-296
Author(s): Paul Slovic; John Monahan; Donald G. MacGregor
Editor(s): Richard L. Wiener
Date Published: 2000
Page Count: 26
Sponsoring Agency: National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA 22230
Grant Number: SBR 9511022; SBR 9876587
Type: Research (Applied/Empirical)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article describes studies designed to inform policymakers and practitioners about factors influencing the validity of violence risk assessment and risk communication.
Abstract: Forensic psychologists and psychiatrists were shown case summaries of patients hospitalized with mental disorders and were asked to judge the likelihood of the patient harming someone within 6 months after discharge from the hospital. They also judged whether the patient posed a high risk, a medium risk, or a low risk of harming someone after discharge. Questionnaires were mailed to all 1,487 members of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law. Completed questionnaires were received from 409 individuals, for a response rate of 28 percent. Providing clinicians with response scales allowing more discrimination among smaller probabilities led patients to be judged as posing lower probabilities of committing harmful acts. This format effect was not eliminated by having clinicians judge relative frequencies rather than probabilities or by providing them with instruction in how to make these types of judgments. In addition, frequency scales led to lower mean likelihood judgments than did probability scales. However, at any given level of likelihood, a patient was judged as posing a higher risk if that likelihood was derived from a frequency scale than if it was derived from a probability scale. Similarly, communicating a patient's dangerousness as a relative frequency led to much higher perceived risk than did communicating a comparable probability. Different reactions to probability and frequency formats appeared to be attributable to the more frightening images evoked by frequencies. Implications for risk assessment and risk communication are discussed. 50 references, 9 tables, and 5 figures
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Criminal justice research; Criminality prediction; Dangerousness; Mental disorders; Mentally ill offenders; Psychological research; Violence prediction; Violent offenders
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