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This study examined the relationship between the severity of negative consequences of a blameworthy behavior and attribution of responsibility for that behavior. Under the guise of comparing their judgments with that of a jury, 480 college students read a transcript of a lawsuit stemming from a bank holdup case in which a customer was injured either slightly or severely by a bullet fired by a bank robber when a teller disobeyed the robber's command not to move. Subjects rated the robber, teller, and victim on several scales. Results indicated more responsibility attribution as severity increased, although this result was qualified by the sex of the involved stimulus persons. Higher punishment and compensation ratings were also made in the severe condition. It was found that as the victim's injury increased in seriousness, his suffering was attributed less to chance. The results demonstrated the value of using a nonaccident paradigm which includes clearly blameworthy behavior, and distinguishes between the victim and perpetrator of the negative behavior. Under such conditions severity-dependent attribution of responsibility may often occur.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1974-01-01

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