Near-Miss Deterrence: Incorporating Near-Miss Effects into Deterrence Theory

41 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2021

See all articles by Stephanie Permut

Stephanie Permut

Carnegie Mellon University

Silvia Saccardo

Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Social and Decision Sciences

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Julie S. Downs

Carnegie Mellon University

Date Written: April 9, 2021

Abstract

We investigate the applications of near-miss effects to theories of effective deterrence. Classical deterrence theory specifies two types of criminal deterrence: general deterrence, in which potential criminals are deterred from offending by the threat of punishment, and specific deterrence, in which criminals who have already offended are deterred from re-offending by experiences with punishment. In this paper, we introduce a novel category of deterrence–Near Miss Deterrence–that falls between general and specific deterrence. Under near-miss deterrence, transgressors do not experience punishment directly, but rather feel a sense of subjective closeness to an avoided punishment and adjust their behavior accordingly. Across two experimental studies (N = 2,049), we study how individuals behave after getting away with a first instance of cheating, and demonstrate the deterrent effects of near misses. We show that participants who cheat and experience subsequent "close calls" with punishment reduce their cheating in levels comparable to cheaters who are punished. By contrast, participants who avoid punishment by wider margins do not decrease their cheating. We do not find evidence that this effect is driven by transient shifts in affect. These results have important implications for theories of deterrence and for policy.

Note: The first two authors contributed equally to this work

Keywords: Deterrence, Ethics, Cheating, Risk-Taking

Suggested Citation

Permut, Stephanie and Saccardo, Silvia and Loewenstein, George F. and Downs, Julie S., Near-Miss Deterrence: Incorporating Near-Miss Effects into Deterrence Theory (April 9, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3823416 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3823416

Stephanie Permut (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Silvia Saccardo

Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

George F. Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)

Julie S. Downs

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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