Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 24, 2009
Marc Fisher of the Washington Post has an intersting piece on recent research by Colgate University social psychologist Kevin Carlsmith. We excerpt the piece piece below.
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Colgate University psychologist Kevin Carlsmith looked at the consistent support for the University of Virginia’s legendary honor code–an example, he posits, of a policy that “assigns extreme punishments for minor offenses.” Under the code, any case of lying, cheating or stealing leads to expulsion. No lesser punishments are possible in the system. Carlsmith wondered why that system remains so popular and he theorized that people love the clarity and simplicity of the approach in the abstract, even if they are often offended by how it plays out in reality.
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Carlsmith decided to look more closely at our attitudes toward tough punishment schemes.
Carlsmith found that most people choose punishments designed more for retribution than to create any deterrence against future wrongdoing. People often endorse punishment systems that they later decide–after they see them in action against real people–are unfair. “A person focused on deterring future crime ought to be sensitive to the frequency of the crime, the likelihood of its detection, the publicity of the punishment, and so forth,” the professor writes.
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For the rest of the piece, click here. Last November, we blogged about Professor Carlsmith’s research on the satisfaction some feel from torture.
Posted in Education, Law | Tagged: deterrence, punishment, retribution | Leave a Comment »
Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 19, 2008
John Bronsteen, Christopher Buccafusco, and Jonathan Masur, have recently posted their interesting new paper, “Happiness and Punishment” on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.
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This article continues our project to apply groundbreaking new literature on the behavioral psychology of human happiness to some of the most deeply analyzed questions in law. Here we explain that the new psychological understandings of happiness interact in startling ways with the leading theories of criminal punishment. Punishment theorists, both retributivist and utilitarian, have failed to account for human beings’ ability to adapt to changed circumstances, including fines and (surprisingly) imprisonment. At the same time, these theorists have largely ignored the severe hedonic losses brought about by the post-prison social and economic deprivations (unemployment, divorce, and disease) caused by even short periods of incarceration. These twin phenomena significantly disrupt efforts to attain proportionality between crime and punishment and to achieve effective marginal deterrence. Hedonic psychology thus threatens to upend conventional conceptions of punishment and requires retributivists and utilitarians to find novel methods of calibrating traditional punitive sanctions if they are to maintain the foundations upon which punishment theory rests.
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For some related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Civil Settlements – Abstract,” “The Situation of Punishment,” and “Why We Punish.”
Posted in Abstracts, Emotions, Law, Legal Theory, Positive Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged: deterrence, hedonic psychology, punishment theory | Leave a Comment »