Age and emotion of an offender as determinants of adult punitive reactions

J Pers. 1976 Jun;44(2):311-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1976.tb00125.x.


Male and female college students were shown videotapes of supposed male offenders describing the details of thefts they had committed. Videotaped sequences were varied so that offenders were 9 to 10 years old or of college age. Also, actors varied in their mode of emotional self-presentation. Comparisons of punishments suggested by subjects indicated that joyful actors received the highest level of punishment while distressed offenders received the lowest level of suggested punishment. It was also found that the emotions of children exerted a greater persuasive effect on subjects' ratings than did the emotions of adults although the pattern of results was similar across ages. These results were discussed as demonstrating that the age and emotion of an offender can exert considerable influence on the attribution of blame made by a disciplinarian.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anger
  • Child
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency*
  • Male
  • Punishment*