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Imprisoned Imperceptions: Inaccuracy in Incarceration Demographic Stereotypes
Unformatted Document Text:  Incarceration Beliefs Degree of accuracy. Bias and accuracy are rarely mutually exclusive (Jussim, 1991, 2005). Because low accuracy cannot be inferred from high bias, accuracy must be assessed directly. Assessing accuracy directly is important for several basic theoretical reasons. First, if only results regarding bias are reported, research risks reaching the conclusion that people’s judgments and perceptions are more erroneous, irrational, and distorted than they really are (e.g., Krueger & Funder, 2004). Second, conclusions about relative prevalence of inaccuracy, irrationality, and error and bias requires an assessment of accuracy, in order to place whatever evidence of bias that is found into some broader context. If, for example, one wishes to reach conclusions that error and bias are large and accuracy is low (see, e.g, Nisbett & Ross, 1980; Gilovich, 1991), one needs to actually demonstrate that error and bias exceed accuracy. Assessments of accuracy, therefore, provide a crucial theoretical contribution with respect to the fundamental question of whether social judgment and perception is primarily rational or irrational, or in versus out of touch with reality. A priori, there are some reasons to predict high levels of accuracy in people’s beliefs about the incarcerated, and other reasons to predict low accuracy. Some research demonstrates high levels of stereotype accuracy in other contexts (see Ryan, 2002; Jussim et al, 2009 for reviews, other research). However, evidence focusing specifically on perceptions of crime and crime rates shows that people often have exaggerated beliefs that are not completely in touch with reality (Warr, 1995; Gallup, 2006). In short, there seems to be as much justification for hypothesizing high accuracy as for hypothesizing low accuracy. In addition, we hypothesized that people with some expertise in the U.S. criminal justice system should hold more accurate beliefs about the demographics of incarceration than should people with no particular expertise. This prediction is consistent with evidence that expert parole decision makers were better able to predict recidivism based on the offender’s past criminal records than college students (Carroll & Payne, 1977). In the present study, this hypothesis was tested by 7

Authors: Ragusa, Laura.
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Incarceration Beliefs
Degree of accuracy.  Bias and accuracy are rarely mutually exclusive (Jussim, 1991, 2005). 
Because low accuracy cannot be inferred from high bias, accuracy must be assessed directly. 
Assessing accuracy directly is important for several basic theoretical reasons.  First, if only results 
regarding bias are reported, research risks reaching the conclusion that people’s judgments and 
perceptions are more erroneous, irrational, and distorted than they really are (e.g., Krueger & Funder, 
2004). Second, conclusions about relative prevalence of inaccuracy, irrationality, and error and bias 
requires an assessment of accuracy, in order to place whatever evidence of bias that is found into 
some broader context. If, for example, one wishes to reach conclusions that error and bias are large 
and accuracy is low (see, e.g, Nisbett & Ross, 1980; Gilovich, 1991), one needs to actually 
demonstrate that error and bias exceed accuracy.  Assessments of accuracy, therefore, provide a 
crucial theoretical contribution with respect to the fundamental question of whether social judgment 
and perception is primarily rational or irrational, or in versus out of touch with reality.  
A priori, there are some reasons to predict high levels of accuracy in people’s beliefs about 
the incarcerated, and other reasons to predict low accuracy.  Some research demonstrates high levels 
of stereotype accuracy in other contexts (see Ryan, 2002; Jussim et al, 2009 for reviews, other 
research). However, evidence focusing specifically on perceptions of crime and crime rates shows 
that people often have exaggerated beliefs that are not completely in touch with reality (Warr, 1995; 
Gallup, 2006). In short, there seems to be as much justification for hypothesizing high accuracy as for 
hypothesizing low accuracy. 
In addition, we hypothesized that people with some expertise in the U.S. criminal justice 
system should hold more accurate beliefs about the demographics of incarceration than should people 
with no particular expertise.  This prediction is consistent with evidence that expert parole decision 
makers were better able to predict recidivism based on the offender’s past criminal records than 
college students (Carroll & Payne, 1977).  In the present study, this hypothesis was tested by 

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