Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=678981
 
 

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Why Do We Punish? Deterrence and Just Deserts as Motives for Punishment


Kevin M. Carlsmith


Colgate University - Psychology Department

John M. Darley


Princeton University

Paul H. Robinson


University of Pennsylvania Law School


Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 83, pp. 284-299, 2002

Abstract:     
One popular justification for punishment is the just deserts rationale: A person deserves punishment proportionate to the moral wrong committed. A competing justification is the deterrence rationale: Punishing an offender reduces the frequency and likelihood of future offenses. The authors examined the motivation underlying laypeople's use of punishment for prototypical wrongs. Study 1 (N = 336) revealed high sensitivity to factors uniquely associated with the just deserts perspective (e.g., offense seriousness, moral trespass) and insensitivity to factors associated with deterrence (e.g., likelihood of detection, offense frequency). Study 2 (N = 329) confirmed the proposed model through structural equation modeling (SEM). Study 3 (N = 351) revealed that despite strongly stated preferences for deterrence theory, individual sentencing decisions seemed driven exclusively by just deserts concerns.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 15

Keywords: Punishment, desert, deterrence

JEL Classification: K14

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Date posted: March 30, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Carlsmith, Kevin M. and Darley, John M. and Robinson, Paul H., Why Do We Punish? Deterrence and Just Deserts as Motives for Punishment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 83, pp. 284-299, 2002. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=678981

Contact Information

Kevin M. Carlsmith
Colgate University - Psychology Department ( email )
13 Oak Drive
Hamilton, NY 13346
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.colgate.edu/DesktopDefault1.aspx?tabid=684&pgID=3400&vID=3&dID=0&fID=4213
John M. Darley
Princeton University ( email )
1-N-17 Green Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States
609-258-3000 (Phone)
Paul H. Robinson (Contact Author)
University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )
3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
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