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Defendant Sex, Attributions of Culpability, and Severity of Sentencing

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Abstract:

Sandra Bem (1975) argues that socialization into sex roles is a process that begins at birth and continues throughout the life span. In her seminal work on sex-role behavior, she identified a number of characteristics that are considered either descriptive of males or descriptive of females. Among the 20 characteristics associated with masculinity are self-reliance, independence, assertiveness, forcefulness, self-sufficiency, dominance, and aggressiveness. Some of the characteristics associated with femininity are being yielding, affectionate, sympathetic, sensitive to the needs of others, compassionate, tender, and gentle. According to Bem, sex role orientation motivates individuals to behave in ways which are consistent with their own internalized sex role standards. “Sex-typed” individuals (those whose self-concepts are closely tied to stereotypical male or female patterns of thought or behavior) tend to behave in ways that are consistent with their views of what are “typical” or “appropriate” male or female behaviors. A sex-typed male will, therefore, behave in ways that maintain his self-image of masculinity, and will suppress behavior that he may view as inappropriate for his sex, while a sex-typed female will strive to maintain the self-image of femininity by restricting her behavior to that which she considered appropriate for a female.
It can be argued that people not only have strong views of the sex-role behaviors that are appropriate for themselves, but also have strong stereotypical views about what constitutes gender-appropriate behavior in others. Both the “paternalism/favoritism” view and the “gender-role deviance” view have as an underlying basis the idea that causal attributions about the actions of both men and women are based on pre-existing (or schematic) knowledge of gender-appropriate behaviors. This important commonality raises several key questions about the true nature of the relationship between deviant behavior and attributions. For example, against what standard of behavior is a defendant’s deviant behavior compared? Do observers compare such behavior to beliefs about the normative behavior of other men or women generally? Do observers’ views of the gender-appropriateness of a defendant’s actions reflect their evaluations of whether the actions are due to internal characteristics or characteristics of the situation? How might these views be reflected in the severity of the verdict and sentence they choose?
We addressed these questions by administering a scenario-based questionnaire to approximately 100 predominantly black students in a southeastern liberal arts college. The scenario described the facts surrounding a murder for which the defendant has already been found guilty. The scenario describes the aggravating and mitigating circumstances presented by the attorneys. Participants were asked to designate a sentence for the defendant. They then completed a series of questions about the impact of the various aggravating and mitigating circumstances on their sentencing decisions. They also evaluated the defendant using the Bem Sex Role Inventory, and completed a measure of locus of control. Preliminary results suggest that defendant sex is related to the impact of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances on participants’ decisions, severity of sentence, and participants’ views of the defendant’s sex-role behaviors.
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Name: The Law and Society Association
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http://www.lawandsociety.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p496780_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Merlino, Mara., Alexander, Cierra. and Walker, Tashaunda. "Defendant Sex, Attributions of Culpability, and Severity of Sentencing" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association, Westin St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, CA, May 30, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p496780_index.html>

APA Citation:

Merlino, M. L., Alexander, C. I. and Walker, T. , 2011-05-30 "Defendant Sex, Attributions of Culpability, and Severity of Sentencing" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association, Westin St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, CA <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p496780_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Sandra Bem (1975) argues that socialization into sex roles is a process that begins at birth and continues throughout the life span. In her seminal work on sex-role behavior, she identified a number of characteristics that are considered either descriptive of males or descriptive of females. Among the 20 characteristics associated with masculinity are self-reliance, independence, assertiveness, forcefulness, self-sufficiency, dominance, and aggressiveness. Some of the characteristics associated with femininity are being yielding, affectionate, sympathetic, sensitive to the needs of others, compassionate, tender, and gentle. According to Bem, sex role orientation motivates individuals to behave in ways which are consistent with their own internalized sex role standards. “Sex-typed” individuals (those whose self-concepts are closely tied to stereotypical male or female patterns of thought or behavior) tend to behave in ways that are consistent with their views of what are “typical” or “appropriate” male or female behaviors. A sex-typed male will, therefore, behave in ways that maintain his self-image of masculinity, and will suppress behavior that he may view as inappropriate for his sex, while a sex-typed female will strive to maintain the self-image of femininity by restricting her behavior to that which she considered appropriate for a female.
It can be argued that people not only have strong views of the sex-role behaviors that are appropriate for themselves, but also have strong stereotypical views about what constitutes gender-appropriate behavior in others. Both the “paternalism/favoritism” view and the “gender-role deviance” view have as an underlying basis the idea that causal attributions about the actions of both men and women are based on pre-existing (or schematic) knowledge of gender-appropriate behaviors. This important commonality raises several key questions about the true nature of the relationship between deviant behavior and attributions. For example, against what standard of behavior is a defendant’s deviant behavior compared? Do observers compare such behavior to beliefs about the normative behavior of other men or women generally? Do observers’ views of the gender-appropriateness of a defendant’s actions reflect their evaluations of whether the actions are due to internal characteristics or characteristics of the situation? How might these views be reflected in the severity of the verdict and sentence they choose?
We addressed these questions by administering a scenario-based questionnaire to approximately 100 predominantly black students in a southeastern liberal arts college. The scenario described the facts surrounding a murder for which the defendant has already been found guilty. The scenario describes the aggravating and mitigating circumstances presented by the attorneys. Participants were asked to designate a sentence for the defendant. They then completed a series of questions about the impact of the various aggravating and mitigating circumstances on their sentencing decisions. They also evaluated the defendant using the Bem Sex Role Inventory, and completed a measure of locus of control. Preliminary results suggest that defendant sex is related to the impact of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances on participants’ decisions, severity of sentence, and participants’ views of the defendant’s sex-role behaviors.


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