Critical Criminology

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 99-115

First online:

Laboratory Experiments: A Meaningful Contribution to Restorative Justice Research?

  • Alana SaulnierAffiliated withUniversity of Ontario Institute of Technology Email author 
  • , Kiri LutchmanAffiliated withUniversity of Ontario Institute of Technology
  • , Diane SivasubramaniamAffiliated withUniversity of Ontario Institute of Technology

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Advocates of restorative justice (RJ) argue that the process offers a more effective means of responding to crime than the formal criminal justice system, and many studies have evaluated RJ positively across a variety of outcome measures, particularly in comparison to court based procedures. However, the RJ literature contains few studies that directly test the factors affecting RJ participants’ behaviours and experiences, so little is known about the specific factors that influence how, and for whom, RJ works. In this paper, we argue that the expanded use of experimental laboratory methodologies will broaden and strengthen our understanding of the basic mechanisms by which RJ operates. We describe some ways in which experimental laboratory research may enhance understandings of apology in restorative settings as well as public support for RJ, and we emphasise the need and the potential to overcome barriers of artificiality in laboratory settings. This analysis of laboratory methodologies and the field of RJ research indicates that creative and well-designed experimental laboratory studies can advance knowledge in this area, allowing researchers to investigate how particular components of RJ contribute to the success or failure of RJ processes.