skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 74082 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Social Contexts and Attributions of Criminal Responsibility
Journal: Social Psychology Quarterly  Volume:43  Issue:4  Dated:(December 1980)  Pages:405-419
Author(s): M A Myers
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 15
Sponsoring Agency: US Dept of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Grant Number: 76-NI-99-0071
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper investigates whether attributions of responsibility for crime are constrained by the contexts in which criminal action occurs and in which responsibility for them is assigned.
Abstract: The experimental literature has hypothesized roles for three central elements of criminal action: the actor, particularly the actor's character and previous behavior; the environment, particularly the victim and setting of the act; and the consequences of the act for the victim and actor. To test these hypotheses, data on 201 cases which went to jury trial were drawn from a sample of defendants charged with a felony in Marion County (Indianapolis), Indiana, between 1970 and 1976; deputy prosecutors' files provided information about the crime and evidentiary strength of each case. Additional data sources were police records, which provided criminal histories of victims and defendants; court records, which supplied data about the defendant; and victim interviews which provided missing data such as socioeconomic status, preference for prosecution, etc. Jurors found 66 percent of the defendants guilty and 34 percent not guilty. The data provide some support for the hypotheses about defendant respectability (as indicated by employment status), victim respectability and blameworthiness (indicated by marital status and age), and severity of the act's consequences (indicated by physical injury and charge seriousness). Because most of the findings hold when evidence is controlled, and for both sexual assault and other crime, they imply some similarity in attributions across attribution and action contexts. However, the data provide no support for hypotheses about environmental forces other than the victim, and only qualified support for hypotheses about the actor's past behavior. The findings highlight a needed shift in research interest from the traditional psychological question of whether and to what extent attributions are contextually shaped and restrained. In order to examine attributions in legal contexts, experimental designs, supported by field research, need to manipulate a wide range of criminal actions and factors relevant not only to finding fault (e.g., evidence of intentionality and causality). Thus, attribution is a process affected by the social contexts of both action and attribution. Tabular data and 83 references are appended.
Index Term(s): Criminal responsibility; Indiana; Offenders; Offenses; Sociology; Victim-offender relationships; Victims of Crime
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.