The way people perceive and think about crime and punishment is a central aspect of normative culture and formal social control. This study aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the role played by malleability beliefs and psychological distance in the public’s punitive attitudes. To address these goals, we employed a 2X2 factorial experimental design, on a random stratified sample, in which we manipulated malleability beliefs about individuals (i.e., belief that personal character is fixed, nonmalleable, or belief that character is malleable and can be changed and developed) and psychological distance (i.e., people’s subjective experience that something is close or far away from the self). In order to examine the interactive effect of malleability beliefs and psychological distance on participants’ punitive attitudes, a two-way ANOVA was performed on a sample of 190 participants. Our findings revealed that participants who were exposed to the malleability beliefs condition had a significantly more positive attitude toward rehabilitative and restorative alternatives to incarceration than participants who were exposed to the fixed beliefs condition. Moreover, results revealed significant interaction between the effects of malleability beliefs and psychological distance levels on participants’ attitudes toward rehabilitative and restorative alternatives.
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- psychological distance
- punitive attitudes