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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78540 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Closed Mind and the Judgement of Crime - A Replication of the Sellin-Wolfgang Index
Journal: International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice  Volume:5  Issue:1  Dated:(Spring 1981)  Pages:51-64
Author(s): S Fleming
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 14
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In an effort to show that the Sellin-Wolfgang scale and its associated techniques can be used to measure cultural values, this study tested the hypothesis that idiosyncratic characteristcs will not affect consensus between groups regarding those crimes to which clear and consistent value standards are attached.
Abstract: In postulating that it is the perspectives of groups rather than of individuals that influence value judgments of crimes generally regarded as most serious or causing the most damage, it follows that personal or idiosyncratic variables will have a significant effect on consensus with regard to those offenses which do not 'shock the public conscience.' Testing this hypothesis involved measuring the amount of consensus obtained among culturally homogeneous groups, and ascertaining the significance of any personal differences. The subjects used in the study were four groups of Philadelphia undergraduate college students who completed questionnaires including background data, the rating of six offenses, and a dogmatism scale. Sex and dogmatism were used as the independent variables. It was assumed that highly dogmatic people would rate low-damage crimes more severely than low dogmatics. It was also assumed that the serious crimes of killing, stabbing, and embezzling $1,000 would show the most consensus, while auto theft with and without damage and embezzling $5 would require more cognitive modes of evaluation in the judgment process and produce less consensus. Results showed, however, that the offenses generating the least consensus were auto theft with damage, embezzling $5, and stabbing, with the latter two influenced by sex and dogmatism respectively. Thus, consensus between culturally similar groups appears when the offenses rated are serious, and where damage is clearly intrinsic to the event. It is concluded that delinquent events are indicators of cultural values and that the judgmental process involves modes of orientation which are evaluative or cognitive, depending on the degree to which the element of damage present in the event is unclear. Tabular data, footnotes, and 23 references are included.
Index Term(s): Crime seriousness measures; Cultural influences; Group behavior; Individual behavior; Offense classification; Public Attitudes/Opinion
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