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The societal view that criminals are inherently dangerous is a view exceedingly present in American culture. Prior research suggests that education significantly improves knowledge and positive attitudes towards stigmatized groups (Lam et al, 2019) which this present study hopes to expand on. The present study tested the impact of a brief educational intervention on stigma against criminals. Participants included 141 participants (81.8% females and 17.5% males), recruited from a private university in Northern California and through various social media platforms. Participants were randomly assigned into four different conditions created by manipulating two variables (educational video vs. no video; vignette about a violent vs. nonviolent criminal). Results demonstrated a significant difference in the social and task attraction of criminals such that participants viewed nonviolent criminals as more socially and task attractive than violent criminals. Secondly, results demonstrated no significant difference in social and task attraction of criminals between those that watched the educational video and those who did not. Finally, the results demonstrated no significant interaction between crime severity and its impact on the effectiveness of the educational video. However, the study did demonstrate a significant main effect for crime severity and education, with positive perceptions of nonviolent criminals enhanced particularly with the viewing of the educational video. Results suggest that through the use of education, negative perceptions towards criminals can be changed for the better.
Veronica Fruiht, PhD
Dominican University of California
San Rafael, CA
Criminals, crime severity, education, public perceptions
Lastra, Elicia, "The Hard Facts: The Influence of Crime and Education on Public Perceptions of Criminals" (2020). Student Research Posters. 99.