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Imprisoned Imperceptions: Inaccuracy in Incarceration Demographic Stereotypes
Unformatted Document Text:  Incarceration Beliefs Procedure Data from the haphazard sample of commuters at the New Brunswick train station were collected in January 2007. Persons not otherwise engaged in activities (e.g., eating, talking on a cell phone) were approached by researchers in the waiting areas and on the train platform, and asked if they would contribute to research being conducted at Rutgers University on people’s beliefs about incarcerated individuals. If oral consent was obtained, participants were given the survey to complete. Data from the student sample were collected in late January and early February 2007. The experimenter entered lecture classrooms, announced that she was conducting research on the accuracy of criminal justice majors’ beliefs about U.S. incarceration, and administered informed consent forms. Consenting students completed the questionnaire, were thanked for their participation, and debriefed. How to Assess Accuracy Assessing accuracy is deceptively complex. The fundamental question – are people right or wrong? – appears simple. In fact, however, in any given social context, there are typically many different aspects or types of accuracy (e.g., Cronbach, 1955; Judd & Park, 1993; Jussim, 2005;Kenny, 1994). Next, therefore, we discuss how we assessed different aspects of accuracy in the present research. How far off from perfection are people’s beliefs? Discrepancy scores. How close to a perfect bulls-eye are people’s beliefs? One way to assess the accuracy of a belief is to find the discrepancy between the estimated value and the actual value. Given that among laypeople few beliefs are likely to be perfect bulls-eyes, what constitutes an accurate or inaccurate belief? Our standard is + 10 percent percentage points. Therefore, we label an estimate of 18% “accurate” if the truth falls between 8 and 28%. This is because coming within 10 percentage points of the true percentage is 9

Authors: Ragusa, Laura.
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Incarceration Beliefs
Procedure
Data from the haphazard sample of commuters at the New Brunswick train station were 
collected in January 2007.  Persons not otherwise engaged in activities (e.g., eating, talking on a cell 
phone) were approached by researchers in the waiting areas and on the train platform, and asked if 
they would contribute to research being conducted at Rutgers University on people’s beliefs about 
incarcerated individuals.  If oral consent was obtained, participants were given the survey to 
complete.  Data from the student sample were collected in late January and early February 2007. The 
experimenter entered lecture classrooms, announced that she was conducting research on the 
accuracy of criminal justice majors’ beliefs about U.S. incarceration, and administered informed 
consent forms. Consenting students completed the questionnaire, were thanked for their participation, 
and debriefed. 
How to Assess Accuracy
Assessing accuracy is deceptively complex.  The fundamental question – are people right or 
wrong? – appears simple.  In fact, however, in any given social context, there are typically many 
different aspects or types of accuracy (e.g., Cronbach, 1955; Judd & Park, 1993; Jussim, 2005;Kenny, 
1994).  Next, therefore, we discuss how we assessed different aspects of accuracy in the present 
research.
How far off from perfection are people’s beliefs? Discrepancy scores.   How close to a perfect 
bulls-eye are people’s beliefs?  One way to assess the accuracy of a belief is to find the discrepancy 
between the estimated value and the actual value.  Given that among laypeople few beliefs are likely 
to be perfect bulls-eyes, what constitutes an accurate or inaccurate belief?  Our standard is + 10 
percent percentage points.  Therefore, we label an estimate of 18% “accurate” if the truth falls 
between 8 and 28%.  This is because coming within 10 percentage points of the true percentage is 
9


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