Elaborating the Individual Difference Component in Deterrence Theory
Posted: 10 Jan 2012
Date Written: December 2011
Deterrence theory and criminal justice policy hold that punishment enhances compliance and deters future criminal activity. Empirical research, however, is decidedly mixed, with some studies finding that punishment weakens compliance, some finding that sanctions have no effect on compliance, and some finding that the effect of sanctions depends on moderating factors. In this review, we do not consider whether sanctions affect compliance but instead consider the conditions under which sanctions affect compliance. Specifically, we focus on understanding the kinds-of-people dimension of sanctions and deterrence to include individual differences (in social bonding, morality, discount rate, impulsivity, social network position, decision-making competence) and situational differences (in emotions, alcohol/drug use). Upon reviewing the empirical evidence, we identify important gaps for theoretical and empirical work and comment on how this work relates to public policy.
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