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Cognitive Closure and Risk Sensitivity in the Fear of Crime

Forthcoming in Legal & Criminological Psychology

22 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2012 Last revised: 7 Sep 2013

Jonathan Jackson

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Methodology

Date Written: August 28, 2013


Purpose. This study was designed to answer two questions. First, does the risk sensitivity model of worry about crime replicate in three European countries? Second, can the model be extended to include need for cognitive closure?

Method. A national probability survey in Italy, Bulgaria and Lithuania measured worry about criminal victimisation, risk perception, and need for cognitive closure. Additive and interactive relationships between latent constructs were tested using latent moderated structural equation modelling.

Results. First, perceived likelihood, control and consequence were statistically significant additive predictors of worry about crime. Second, the association between subjective probability judgments and worry about crime was stronger among people who associated the uncertain event with serious personal consequences and among people who had a high need for cognitive closure. Third, need for cognitive closure was associated with greater perceived consequences of victimisation, but not with different perceptions of the likelihood and controllability of personal victimisation.

Conclusions. This study provides empirical support for an extended risk sensitivity model in three European countries. Findings suggest that risk perception involves multiple – and interacting – dimensions that constitute sensitivity to risk, as well as individual differences in knowledge construction, information judgement and processing. Future work should address (a) whether probability judgements shift psychological distance to uncertain future outcomes, and (b) whether the effect of psychological distance on worry about crime is greater among people who construe the outcome to be severe in consequence and who desire definite knowledge and dislike uncertainty in their lives.

Keywords: fear of crime, construal-level theory, psychological proximity, risk perception, sensitivity to risk, affect, worry

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Jackson, Jonathan, Cognitive Closure and Risk Sensitivity in the Fear of Crime (August 28, 2013). Forthcoming in Legal & Criminological Psychology. Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Jackson (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Methodology ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+0044-207-955-7652 (Phone)

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