Psychology ETDs

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Previous studies, most of which have been sociological, have shown the influence of extralegal factors on judicial decision­making. The present experimental study was conducted to determine the specific effects of sex of the offender and sex of the judge on sentencing. Sixteen fictional cases of both juvenile and adult offenders were given to graduating law students. The cases were counterbalanced by sex, and contained both serious and minor crimes. The subjects then assigned sentences from a list of six alternatives. At the conclusion of the experiment the students were asked to guess what the independent variable might have been and to predict the outcome. The lack of awareness of the students regarding the possible influence of sex was indicated in the results. It was also found that the influence of this factor was not as simple as has been suggested, and largely depends on the nature of the crime. Those offenses resulting in the most pronounced effects due to the extralegal factor of sex were murder, assault and desertion. For murder, juvenile females were given significantly harsher sentences by male judges than were male juveniles. In the case of assault, male adults received the most severe punishment from female judges. And finally, there was an opposite-sex interaction between judges and offenders for adults guilty of desertion.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Karl Peter Koenig

Second Committee Member

Samuel Roll

Third Committee Member

Britton Kenneth Ruebush



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Psychology Commons