Criminal Punishment and Cognition
Because fast and frugal heuristics theorists believe that people make all decisions, including decisions about whether to comply with legal regulations, by looking to a small number of lexically-processed decision-relevant cues, they argue that we will not manipulate crime rates as well by tinkering with expected punishments as we will by, for instance, engraining habits or conforming law to pre-existing social norms or altering the capacity of putative violators to engage in unwanted conduct. Heuristics and biases theorists believe that would-be criminals may care about the expected value of crimes they are considering committing, but that they often misestimate the probability of being sanctioned and evaluate sanctions in ways that are highly contextually sensitive. The chances of punishment may often be underestimated, and both the experienced and remembered pain of the punishment that criminals actually suffer may be counter-intuitively low. Incapacitationists should note that F&F scholars are wary of using multi-cue regression measures in predicting future dangerousness, and that H&B work should lead us to worry that we will systematically overestimate the dangerousness of criminals.
Keywords: fast and frugal heuristics, criminal sanctions, criminal sanctions, deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, expected punishment, duration neglect, dangerousness predictions, hedonic adaptation, punishment, legal compliance
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