Social Justice Research

, 21:138 | Cite as

Revenge, Retribution, and Values: Social Attitudes and Punitive Sentencing

Article

Abstract

This study examined the pattern of relations between vengeance attitudes, right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), and social dominance orientation (SDO) using the structure of value types proposed by Schwartz (Adv Exp Soc Psychol 25:1–65, 1992). Relations between these variables and support for a variety of sentencing options, including capital punishment, were then investigated. One hundred and forty-eight students in Adelaide, South Australia, completed a Vengeance Scale (Stuckless and Goranson, J Soc Behav Pers 7:25–42, 1992), measures of RWA and SDO, the Schwartz Value Survey (1992), and a Sentencing Goals Scale. As predicted, vengeance attitudes and SDO were found to be positively related to the importance of power values and negatively related to the importance of universalism and benevolence values. Vengeance attitudes were negatively related to rehabilitation and positively related to support for retribution and incapacitation sentencing goals, while RWA was positively related to the endorsement of deterrence and incapacitation as sentencing goals. Regression analyses indicated that only RWA and vengeance attitudes were unique predictors of death penalty support. Results provide support for the suggestion that vengeance is closely associated with our notion of retributive justice.

Keywords

Revenge Values Authoritarianism Social dominance Sentencing goals 

Introduction

The desire for revenge often appears to be a central motive in responses to a perceived injustice. Revenge goes beyond immediate retaliation as a response because it can occur after a considerable delay in time and appears to have more than the cessation of the injustice as its goal. It features as a motive not only in legal argument associated with criminal and other types of offenses, but also more generally in interpersonal behaviors outside of a legal context and in cultural products such as literature, theatre, movies, and television. Yet curiously there is a very sparse literature from social psychology on the desire for revenge.

We attempt to redress this neglect in the current article by addressing the following questions: Does a desire for personal revenge differ from the “legitimate” desire for retributive punishment within the criminal justice system? Can we distinguish between these two punitive motivations or are they essentially representing the same thing—the desire to see an offender punished and justice restored? Where do these punitive motivations fit within a more general structure of human motivational values, and do these values enable us to predict the range of criminal sentencing options used in the criminal justice system?

This article addresses these questions in terms of the types of values that may be associated with various punitive dispositions. In particular, we provide evidence about values that are associated with personal revenge and with two other personality characteristics known to predict levels of punitiveness—right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) and social dominance orientation (SDO). These underlying values, together with level of dispositional vengeance, RWA, and SDO, are then examined in relation to the various sentencing goals observed in the criminal justice system, including support for the death penalty.

Vengeance and Values

Contemporary research (Feather, 1996, p. 222) defines values as “beliefs about desirable or undesirable ways of behaving or about the desirability or otherwise of general goals.” People may differ in their value priorities, with some values held to be more important than others. Feather takes the view that core human values are linked to the motivational and affective systems, and they guide and influence human behavior. Values may influence attitudes and behavioral choices by operating as “evaluative criteria” when individuals make judgments about individuals, events, courses of action, or goals. They are also linked to affect and to attitudes and beliefs via associative networks that reflect some degree of consistency in the overall structure of relations. Thus we might expect that a belief about the appropriateness of personal vengeance would be part of an associative network involving other similar beliefs that are linked to the values that individuals consider as important.

In the current study we investigated values we expected would be related to beliefs and attitudes about the suitability of personal vengeance as a response to a perceived injustice and compared these values with those associated with favoring punitive actions enacted by a legitimate authority. We used the values typology described by Schwartz (1992, 1996) to explore these questions. Schwartz proposed a theoretically derived set of values that are organized into ten distinct motivational types. These ten value types are arranged in a circumplex model that reflects the compatibilities and conflicts between them (Fig. 1). Because value types that are on opposite sides of the circumplex reflect opposing value priorities, correlations between a third variable and the value types will typically exhibit a sinusoidal pattern with a wave-like shift in correlations as one moves from adjacent value types to value types that are opposite on the circumplex (Schwartz, 1992).
Fig. 1

The circular structure of value systems

Relations between the value types can further be represented in terms of two dimensions. At opposite ends of one dimension are self-enhancement value types (comprising power and achievement values) versus self-transcendence value types (universalism and benevolence values). The second dimension opposes openness-to-change value types (self-direction and stimulation values) with conservation value types (security, conformity, and tradition values). The hedonism value type may be involved in either the self-enhancement or openness-to-change dimensions, depending on the context.

We expected that power values would be activated when an individual experiences a personal affront or injustice of the sort that would prime vengeful thoughts or behavior. For Schwartz (1992, p. 9) power values represent a “focus on social esteem… (emphasising)… the attainment or preservation of a dominant position within the more general social system.” Therefore, when individuals for whom power values are important have their own personal power and standing threatened (e.g., when they suffer an injustice at the hands of another), we predicted that they would be motivated to “get even” in order to restore their status in the eyes of those around them and to preserve their perceived social position. They would be more likely to endorse attitudes that are favorable toward vengeance than those for whom power values are not important.

Opposed to the power value type in the circumplex model are the two value types associated with self-transcendence—benevolence and universalism. Benevolence represents a focus on the welfare of those with whom one is in close social contact (e.g., being helpful, forgiving), while universalism reflects a more generalized worldly concern with the rights and welfare of all people (e.g., social justice, equality, and being broadminded). We therefore expected that these values—reflective of understanding, tolerance, and a concern for the welfare of others—would not be of high importance to those endorsing personal vengeance. Hence vengeance attitudes were expected to be negatively related to the importance of benevolence and universalism value types.

Vengeance, Authoritarianism, and Values

While revenge represents a personal retributive reaction to injustice, society in general tends to endorse punishment when it is administered by a legitimate civil authority such as the justice system. One personality variable that has demonstrated a consistent association with punitive and retributive reactions to criminal offenses is RWA (Altemeyer, 1981, 1988; Carroll, Perkowitz, Lurigio, & Weaver, 1987; Christie, 1993; Feather, 1996, 1998, 1999a, b; Feather, Boeckmann, & McKee, 2001; Miller & Vidmar, 1981). We also included this variable in the current study.

Although McKee (2005, unpublished doctoral dissertation) tested but found no relationship between levels of RWA and vengeance attitudes as assessed by Stuckless and Goranson’s (1992) Vengeance Scale, results in that study did show that high authoritarians were more likely than low authoritarians to blame a “car park rage” offender for his behavior, more likely to get satisfaction from informing the police about the offender’s non-registered vehicle, and more likely to endorse a higher court-imposed penalty. They were not likely, however, to become aggressive or to seek payback later. All of these relations were very weak (rs ranging from .15 to .17), which is what we might expect from a “minor” offense (Zwillenberg, 1983, as cited in Christie, 1993), but the results do suggest that high authoritarians would be more likely to support punitive measures if they were undertaken by a legitimate authority, but not if they were exacted by the “victim” as personal revenge. This interpretation is consistent with the representation of the right-wing authoritarian as someone who, while punitive, is highly influenced by status and legitimized authority and who demonstrates an adherence to social conventions. For instance, Feather (1998) found that high authoritarians rated an offense as more serious than low authoritarians when the offense was committed by someone who was challenging legitimate authority (a protestor), but less serious than low authoritarians when the offender was pro-system (a police officer).

These various results suggest that the values underlying RWA might be somewhat different from the values that underlie vengeance. Recent theory and research on RWA is consistent with the view that a particular form of value profile is associated with RWA. For example, Altemeyer (1981, 1988) emphasized the co-varying attitudinal clusters of authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, and conventionalism that together may be assumed to implicate different value types. Feather (1998, 2005) has reported consistent research findings that show that individuals high in RWA emphasize values concerned with tradition, conformity, and security (the conservation dimension), and power, while those low in authoritarianism assign more importance to universalism, stimulation, self-direction, and hedonism values (see also Rohan & Zanna, 1996).

More recent research has attempted to tease apart the three attitudinal clusters proposed by Altemeyer (1981, 1988). A principal components analysis of Altemeyer’s (1981) 24-item RWA scale by Feather (1993) revealed six factors, the first four of which were readily interpretable, and these were labeled Punitive Aggression, Respectful Submission, Conventionality, and Rule-Following. Analyses examining the relation between these four factors and attitudes toward high achievers showed that the dimension of Punitive Aggression predicted more punitive attitudes toward high achievers, while the dimensions of Conventionality and Rule-Following favored rewarding high achievers. The dimension of Respectful Submission was found to relate positively to both the punishment and the rewarding of high achievers. Cohrs, Moschner, Maes, and Kielmann (2005), on the other hand, found that items tapping authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submissiveness/conventionality loaded equally strongly on both the conservation and self-enhancement dimensions of the values circumplex, providing little evidence for separation of the components of authoritarianism. Funke (2005), using a newly created three-dimensional authoritarian scale, found that authoritarian aggression was the strongest predictor of punitiveness across a range of scenarios, followed by authoritarian submission, then conventionalism. While authoritarian aggression was a positive predictor of punitiveness, both authoritarian submission and conventionalism were negative predictors.

We therefore expected that the authoritarian aggression component of RWA would be more strongly related to value types on the self-enhancement—self-transcendence dimension than would the conventionalism component while conventionalism would be more strongly related to value types on the conservation—openness-to-change dimension than would authoritarian aggression. We also expected that authoritarian aggression would be more strongly related to vengeance attitudes than would the conventionalism component.

Vengeance, Social Dominance Orientation, and Values

We also included a measure of SDO (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994) in the current study because this variable is associated with status and power. As we noted previously, we expected to find that vengeance would also be concerned with threats to status and power. Hence there may be some value overlap between these two variables that reflect a preference for hierarchy rather than equal relations, and for dominance over others. However, while research on vengeance has tended to focus on interpersonal relations, SDO was specifically formulated to emphasize group-based expressions of dominance and superiority. To this end Pratto et al. (1994, p. 743) took pains to distinguish it both conceptually and psychometrically from interpersonal dominance, a dispositional trait characteristic of forceful, authoritative individuals who endeavor “to control their environments and influence or direct other people.”

SDO has been found to be associated with the self-enhancement end of the self-transcendence—self-enhancement axis when the pattern of correlations with Schwartz’s (1992) value types are examined in the context of the circumplex model (Altemeyer, 1998). Other researchers have found moderately positive relations between RWA and SDO (Altemeyer, 1998; Duckitt, 2001; Duckitt, Wagner, du Plessis, & Birum, 2002; Heaven & Connors, 2001), leading some to propose the existence of two broad sets of sociocultural attitudes and values reflecting, on the one hand, a social-conservatism versus personal freedom dimension with RWA at the social conservatism end, and on the other hand, an economic-conservatism versus social welfare dimension with SDO at the economic conservatism end (Duckitt, 2001).

This analysis leads us to propose that a similar value structure may underlie both SDO and vengeance attitudes. The goals of power, control, and dominance over others would appear to be common to individuals with an SDO and to those with a highly vengeful disposition, while a lack of concern for the welfare and equality of others are also likely characteristics of both types of individual. If, as expected, vengeance attitudes are associated positively with the self-enhancement value types (power and achievement) and negatively with the self-transcendence value types (benevolence and universalism), this would place vengeance attitudes along the same dimension as SDO. We would therefore expect to find a stronger relationship between vengeance attitudes and SDO than between vengeance attitudes and RWA.

While SDO has generally been treated as a single construct, recent research has suggested the existence of two interrelated subscales (Jost & Thompson, 2000; Sears & Henry, 2005). Opposition to equality (OEQ) reflects an opposition to egalitarian social relations regardless of own-group status, whereas group-based dominance (GBD) reflects a preference for in-group dominance over out-groups. Although on many occasions the two subscales will be similar in their relations to other constructs, this is not always the case (Jost & Thompson, 2000). We included measures of the two subscales in the present study but made no specific prediction about differential relations between the subscales and the punitive measures.

Sentencing Goals, Values, and Personality Characteristics

The final aim of the present study was to investigate relations between sentencing goals on the one hand and vengeance attitudes, RWA, SDO, and values on the other hand. Rehabilitation, retribution, incapacitation, and deterrence (of the offender or would-be offenders) are the primary goals of sentencing identified by researchers (Carlsmith, Darley, & Robinson, 2002; Carroll et al., 1987; Darley, 2002; Darley & Pittman, 2003; McFatter, 1978, 1982; McKee, 2005, unpublished doctoral dissertation; Roberts & Stalans, 1998), and surveys indicate that all of these sentencing goals or strategies are endorsed by the public depending on the circumstances (Roberts & Stalans, 1998). The choice of sentencing goal may be influenced by dispositional and situational factors, with contextual factors concerning the offender or the offense influencing which strategy is chosen in any one particular circumstance. Most agree, however, that retribution as expressed by the “just deserts” philosophy is central to most punishment strategies (e.g., Darley & Pittman, 2003; Hogan & Emler, 1981; McFatter, 1982).

A number of authors have discussed the goals of sentencing in relation to values. For example, Miller and Vidmar (1981) proposed that punishing offenders serves many purposes for the individual and for society at large. Some of these reflect instrumental concerns and consequently are aimed at altering the future behavior of either the offender (rehabilitation, personal deterrence, incapacitation/incarceration) or would-be offenders (general deterrence). Other goals may serve a moral purpose, reflecting a reaction on the part of the victim or the social group to having their values threatened (e.g., rehabilitation). The goal of retributive punishment, Miller and Vidmar suggested, is to “maintain the self-image and the beliefs and values of the reactor” (p. 155)—to reassert the values of the individual and his or her social group. Vidmar (2002, p. 292), in his six-stage model of the dynamics of retribution, proposed that observers perceive an intentional rule violation as one that “threatens or actually harms values related to perceiver’s personal self, status, or internalized group values,” and he referred to the community’s need to assert the legitimacy of values that have been threatened by criminal offenses, especially those of a more heinous nature. The security value type is one obvious value that is threatened by a criminal offense. Individuals may also, of course, perceive the values of their social group differently from one another, so consequently the sentencing strategies that they choose may sometimes reflect more of their own than society’s value priorities.

Similarly, Nozick (1981, p. 375) proposed that the purpose of retributive punishment is to communicate “correct values” to an offender, the punishment itself acting to link the offender to those particular values—in Nozick’s words, “… hitting him over the head with them.” It is thus a requirement that the offender knows why the penalty was exacted, a requirement that retribution shares with revenge. For Nozick judicial penalties have many goals, including deterrence, education, and reformation, but over and above these things the primary intent is to communicate the values of the sanctioning body.

Carroll et al. (1987) saw beliefs and values as providing a link between background variables and subsequent intentions and behaviors when individuals make sentencing decisions. They examined the pattern of personality variables, causal attributions, sentencing goals, and ideologies reported by law and criminology students and probation officers when making decisions about the punishment handed out to offenders. Their analyses of these patterns revealed two factors, the first of which represented a liberal, rehabilitation-oriented factor using punishment to correct the offender, the roots of whose behavior lay in social causes. The second factor represented a punitive stance, which blamed the offender and advocated a retributive response. The authors also found that conservative ideology and authoritarianism were associated with this second factor. Similarly, Baron and Hartnagel (1996) examined a model predicting punitiveness toward juvenile offenders and found that the belief that juvenile courts were too lenient was associated with conservative social values.

As noted previously, RWA has been associated with more punitive responses to criminal behavior, including support for the death penalty. High authoritarians have been found to be more punitive than low authoritarians when judging the harmful behaviors of others in hypothetical situations (Feather, 1996, 1998; Lerner, Goldberg, & Tetlock, 1998), and the tendency of high authoritarians to be more punitive than low authoritarians increases as the rated seriousness of the offense increases (Zwillenberg, 1983, as cited in Christie, 1993). The perception by authoritarians that the world is a threatening and dangerous place (Altemeyer, 1981, 1988) has been seen by some to lead to a focus on in-group cohesion, social conformity, and a distrustful hostile attitude to any threat to group norms (Duckitt, 2001). If authoritarians view criminal offenders as posing just such a threat to their social group and its values or to society and the status quo, we might expect that this would produce the strong punitive reactions that have been observed. In the present study, this would lead to support for more punitive penalties, including the death penalty, rather than more rehabilitative sentencing options.

Similarly, SDO has consistently been associated with punitive responses to law and order issues, such as a belief in the deterrent effect of capital punishment and the endorsement of legal retribution (Pratto et al., 1994). According to Pratto et al., these punitive responses reflect support for institutions that are discriminatory in relation to status differences and for legitimizing myths that bolster inequality and social hierarchies. We would, therefore, expect to replicate these findings in the present study, with those high in SDO supporting more punitive penalties rather than those with a rehabilitative purpose.

Hypotheses

In summary, we tested the following hypotheses:
  1. 1.

    Vengeance attitudes will be positively related to the importance of power values and negatively related to the importance of universalism and benevolence values. They will also be positively related to SDO and to values that overlap with those that underlie SDO.

     
  2. 2.

    RWA will be positively related to the importance of tradition, conformity, security, and power values, and negatively related to the importance of universalism, stimulation, self-direction, and hedonism values. Full-scale RWA will not be related to vengeance attitudes, but may show a weak positive relation to SDO. Authoritarian aggression will be more strongly correlated with vengeance attitudes and with SDO than will the RWA component of conventionalism.

     
  3. 3.

    Vengeance attitudes, RWA, and SDO will predict support for retribution, deterrence, and incapacitation as sentencing goals and negatively predict rehabilitation as a sentencing goal.

     
  4. 4.

    Vengeance attitudes, RWA, and SDO will each uniquely predict support for the death penalty. Of the three components of RWA, authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission will predict support for the death penalty.

     

Method

Participants

There were 148 participants (42 men, 105 women, and 1 individual who did not specify gender) who were sampled from the 1st year class in introductory psychology at Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia. The age of the participants ranged from 17 to 54 years, with a mean age of 22.05 years (SD = 7.49). Participants completed a questionnaire anonymously that contained the variables of interest and they were provided with feedback about the purpose of the study upon completion of the questionnaire.

Measures

The following measures were included in the questionnaire in the order presented.

Schwartz Value Survey

Participants completed the 57-item version of the Schwartz Value Survey (SVS; Schwartz, 1992). The SVS consists of 57 values, each accompanied by a short descriptive phrase. Participants are asked to rate each value according to how important they feel it is as “a guiding principle in my life.” Each value is rated on a 9-point rating scale ranging from −1 (opposed to my values) through 0 (not important) to 7 (of supreme importance). In order to eliminate differences in scale use, each individual’s rating for each value was then centered around his or her own mean rating for the total set of values, as suggested by Schwartz and Rubel (2005). These ipsatized scores thus represent the relative importance of that value for each individual. The values were combined into the 10 value types below as proposed by Schwartz (1992) on the basis of smallest-space analysis (Guttman, 1968).

The value types, with their definitions in terms of their associated motivational goals, the specific values associated with each type (in parentheses), and their internal reliabilities (alphas) using the non-ipsatized ratings were as follows (names and definitions for the value types are from Schwartz, 1992).
  • Power: social status and prestige, control, or dominance over people and resources (social power, wealth, authority, preservation of public image), α = .75;

  • Achievement: personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards (successful, ambitious, capable, influential), α = .53;

  • Hedonism: pleasure and sensuous gratification (pleasure, enjoying life, self-indulgent), α = .65;

  • Stimulation: excitement, novelty, and challenge in life (a varied life, daring, an exciting life), α = .70;

  • Self-direction: independent thought and action, choosing, creating, exploring (creativity, freedom, independent, curious, choosing own goals), α = .61;

  • Universalism: understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all (broad-minded, wisdom, a world of beauty, equality, unity with nature, a world at peace, social justice, protecting the environment), α = .77;

  • Benevolence: preservation and enhancement of the welfare of people with whom one is in frequent personal contact (honest, loyal, helpful, forgiving, responsible), α = .67;

  • Tradition: respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas provided by traditional culture or religion (respect for tradition, humble, accepting one’s portion in life, devout, moderate), α = .60;

  • Conformity: restraint in actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms (self-discipline, obedient, politeness, honoring of parents and elders), α = .71;

  • Security: safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self (family security, national security, reciprocation of favors, social order, clean), α = .62.

Sentencing Goals Scale

A 20-item scale was designed to assess the sentencing goals and strategies used by individuals when making judgments about the punishment and/or penalties for criminal offenders. This scale was developed by McKee (2005, unpublished doctoral dissertation) and based on the analysis of a test bank of 45 statements reflecting a range of attitudes toward criminal offenders and their punishment. Some of the items came from scales developed by Ollenburger (1986) and Carroll et al. (1987). Participants responded on 7-point rating scales ranging from 1 (disagree) to 7 (agree). Using principal components analysis the scale was reduced to 20 items, with the five highest loading items on each of the four factors retained. The final scale consists of 20 items reflecting the sentencing principles of rehabilitation (e.g., “The purpose of court sentences should be to rehabilitate the criminal”), retribution (“The purpose of punishment should be to make offenders pay for the wrongs that they have done”), deterrence (“Penalties should be severe enough so that criminals are unlikely to re-offend”), and incapacitation (“Offenders must be punished so that they cannot cause any further harm to the community”). The internal reliabilities were as follows: rehabilitation (α = .76), retribution (α = .74), deterrence (α = .76), and incapacitation (α = .67).

Vengeance Scale

Attitude toward revenge was measured with the 20-item Vengeance Scale (Stuckless & Goranson, 1992). This scale contains 20 statements (e.g., “I try to even the score with anyone who hurts me”) which are rated on a 7-point rating scale (1 = disagree, 7 = agree). Ten of these items are worded negatively and ten positively, and responses are scored in the direction of increasing vengefulness. The internal reliability of the scale (alpha) was .85.

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

RWA was measured using the 30-item RWA Scale (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992). The items in this scale are designed to assess the three attitudinal clusters that Altemeyer (1981, 1988) suggested underlie authoritarianism—authoritarian aggression, authoritarian submission, and conventionalism. The items are counterbalanced to control for acquiescent bias, with half worded positively and half worded negatively. Participants responded on a 9-point scale that ranged from −4 (very strongly disagree) to +4 (very strongly agree) with a neutral midpoint of 0. Scores for the negatively worded items were reverse-coded so that high scores indicated more authoritarian attitudes and a constant of 5 was added to all items to eliminate negative scores. Finally, the mean score was calculated for the 30 items resulting in a total authoritarianism score, which could range from 1 to 9, with higher scores indicating greater authoritarianism. The internal reliability of the scale (alpha) was .90.

The RWA scale was designed to reflect the covarying nature of the three attitudinal clusters and consequently many of the items are double-barreled combinations of these clusters, and clear and simple factor solutions using exploratory factor analytic techniques may therefore be difficult to obtain (Funke, 2005). In addition, the sample size in the present study was not considered large enough to justify a factor analysis. Therefore, in order to gain a measure of the three attitudinal clusters of RWA, the 30 items were assessed by two judges for their ability to predominantly tap one of the three components. Initial rating of the items found concurrence between the raters on 25 of the items and disagreement over 5 items. After discussion, agreement was reached on the final 5 items to the satisfaction of both raters. Of the 30 items, 11 were selected as primarily measuring conventionalism (e.g., “It may be considered old-fashioned by some, but having a decent respectable appearance is still the mark of a gentleman and, especially, a lady”), 10 measured authoritarian aggression (e.g., “In these troubled times laws have to be enforced without mercy, especially when dealing with the agitators and revolutionaries who are stirring things up”), and 9 measured authoritarian submission (e.g., “Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn”). The respective internal reliabilities for conventionalism, authoritarian aggression, and authoritarian submission were .78, .73, and .78.

Social Dominance Orientation

SDO was measured with the 14-item version of the SDO Scale (Pratto et al., 1994). This scale was designed to measure attitudes toward group inequalities and group relations, with half of the items indicating approval of group inequality (e.g., “Some groups of people are simply inferior to other groups”) and half endorsing the equality of groups (e.g., “All humans should be treated equally”). Participants responded to each statement on a 7-point rating scale ranging from 1 (disagree) to 7 (agree). The seven statements endorsing group equality were reverse coded and the mean score across the 14 items was used to provide an index of SDO, with higher scores indicating greater endorsement of this orientation. The internal reliability of the scale (alpha) was .85. The two subscales opposition to equality (OEQ) and group-based dominance (GBD) were then created by calculating the mean of the seven items comprising each of the subscales. The internal reliabilities of the resultant two scales were .80 and .81, respectively.

Participants were also asked whether they were in favor of the reintroduction of capital punishment, to which they responded on a 7-point rating scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much).

Results

Means and SDs

Table 1 presents means and SDs for the ten value types, vengeance attitudes, SDO, RWA, the four sentencing goals, and attitude toward capital punishment. These results show that participants assigned most importance to benevolence, self-direction, achievement, and universalism values, and least importance to tradition and power values. Scores for both vengeance attitudes and SDO were below the midpoint of the scale. Scores on RWA, as well as the component scales of conventionalism, authoritarian aggression, and authoritarian submission were also marginally below the midpoint of the scale. For each of the sentencing goals the means were marginally above the midpoint of the scale, while for capital punishment the mean score was below the midpoint.
Table 1

Means and SDs for major measures

 

Mean

SD

Value types

Hedonism

4.30

1.17

Achievement

4.49

.95

Power

2.24

1.38

Self-direction

4.71

.90

Stimulation

3.77

1.33

Universalism

4.46

1.03

Benevolence

4.92

.91

Security

4.17

.99

Conformity

4.24

1.12

Tradition

3.03

1.21

Social attitudes

Vengeance attitudes

3.40

.65

SDO

2.76

.95

RWA (full scale)

4.38

1.09

Conventionalism

4.57

1.19

Authoritarian aggression

4.26

1.24

Authoritarian submission

4.23

1.35

Sentencing goals

Rehabilitation

4.28

1.20

Retribution

4.66

1.16

Deterrence

4.74

1.06

Incapacitation

4.49

.99

Capital punishment

2.71

1.84

Note: Means and SDs for the ten value types were based on the non-ipsatised scores. Scale midpoints were 3 for the value types; 4 for the four sentencing goals, capital punishment, vengeance attitudes, and SDO; and 5 for RWA, conventionalism, authoritarian aggression, and authoritarian submission

Vengeance Attitudes, SDO, RWA, and Values

Table 2 presents the correlations between the ten ipsatized value types and the three social attitude variables, as well as their correlations with the four sentencing goals and support for capital punishment.
Table 2

Pearson product moment correlations for major measures

 

Revenge

SDO

RWA

Rehabilitation

Retribution

Deterrence

Incapacitation

Capital punishment

Value types

Hedonism

.21*

.31***

−.20*

−.18*

.14

.07

.16

.01

Achievement

−.02

.18*

−.15

−.04

−.12

.04

.02

.00

Power

.40***

.49***

.22*

−.20*

.07

−.02

.10

.18*

Self-direction

−.12

.00

−.41***

−.19*

−.04

.01

−.03

−.05

Stimulation

.15

.17

−.09

−.01

.08

−.08

−.05

.10

Universalism

−.21**

−.56**

−.40***

.19*

.03

−.02

−.13

−.09

Benevolence

−.27***

−.39***

−.17

.18*

−.15

.10

−.10

−.18*

Security

.15

.30***

.27**

−.14

.06

.03

.14

.25**

Conformity

−.11

.03

.46***

.00

.10

.16

.01

.18*

Tradition

−.07

−.07

.42***

.08

.02

−.02

.04

.06

Social attitudes

Revenge

.36***

.14

−.18*

.22**

.16

.30***

.33***

SDO

.36***

.26**

−.22**

.11

.04

.15

.18*

RWA

.14

.26**

−.11

.15

.21*

.31***

.36***

Note: Ns vary between 128 and 144 due to deletion of missing cases. Tests of significance were two-tailed. SDO = Social Dominance Orientation; RWA = Right-Wing Authoritarianism

p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001

As predicted, vengeance attitudes were related positively to SDO but were not related to RWA. SDO and RWA were, however, positively correlated. Also as predicted, vengeance attitudes and SDO showed similar patterns of relations with the ten value types. Both measures were correlated positively with the hedonism and power value types and negatively with the universalism and benevolence value types, indicating that individuals who endorsed positive attitudes toward vengeance as well as those with an SDO tended to emphasize self-enhancing rather than self-transcending value types. Additionally, SDO correlated positively with the achievement and security value types. Consistent with previous findings RWA correlated negatively with the hedonism, self-direction, and universalism value types and positively with the power, security, tradition, and conformity value types. These correlations indicate an endorsement of value types on the conservation rather than openness-to-change value dimension.

A graphic representation of the correlates of vengeance attitudes, SDO, and RWA with the ten value types is presented in Fig. 2. All three social attitude variables exhibit the expected sinusoidal patterns of relations with the value types, with the overlap in underlying values between SDO and vengeance attitudes being reflected in the similarity of their wave patterns, which is out of phase with the RWA curve. While all three social attitude variables exhibit some of their strongest negative correlations with the self-transcendence value types (universalism and benevolence), SDO and vengeance attitudes correlate most positively with the power value type (self-enhancement dimension) and RWA correlates most positively with the tradition and conformity value types (conservation dimension).
Fig. 2

Correlations of value types with vengeance attitudes, SDO, and RWA

Vengeance Attitudes, SDO, RWA, and Sentencing Goals

Table 2 also presents the correlations between vengeance attitudes, SDO, RWA, and the sentencing goals of rehabilitation, retribution, deterrence, and incapacitation. As predicted, vengeance attitudes were negatively related to support for rehabilitation and positively related to support for retribution and incapacitation as sentencing goals. There was no relation found between vengeance attitudes and deterrence. SDO was negatively related to support for rehabilitation as predicted, but was not related to any of the other sentencing goals. RWA was positively related to support for deterrence and incapacitation, but was unrelated to either rehabilitation or retribution.

Table 2 shows, as predicted, that participants with stronger vengeance attitudes and higher SDO and RWA scores tended to be more in favor of capital punishment. Attitudes toward capital punishment were also positively related to the importance participants assigned to security and conformity values and negatively related to the importance they assigned to benevolence values. Although not reported in Table 2, capital punishment was positively related to the sentencing goals of retribution r(148) = .35, p < .001, deterrence r(147) = .27, p < .01, and incapacitation r(148) = .33, p < .001, whereas rehabilitation was negatively related to capital punishment r(148) = −.30, p < .001.

Subscale Components of RWA and SDO

When the three subscales of RWA were used in place of the full-scale RWA score, the analyses revealed a slightly different pattern of relations with the value types. Table 3 shows that, like the full-scale score, all three subscales correlated positively with the security, conformity, and tradition value types, and negatively with the universalism and self-direction values types. Minor differences occurred where conventionalism correlated negatively with hedonism and stimulation, and authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission correlated negatively with benevolence and positively with power. Authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission correlated positively with SDO and vengeance attitudes, whereas conventionalism showed no relation with these two variables.
Table 3

Pearson product moment correlations of major measures with the RWA subscales of conventionalism (RWA-CON), authoritarian aggression (RWA-AGG), and authoritarian submission (RWA-SUB) and the SDO subscales opposition to equality (OEQ) and group-based dominance (GBD)

 

RWA-CON

RWA-AGG

RWA-SUB

OEQ

GBD

Value types

Hedonism

−.29**

−.02

−.08

.29**

.25**

Achievement

−.12

−.13

−.14

.28**

.07

Power

.12

.29**

.33***

.34***

.49***

Self-direction

−.40***

−.26**

−.38***

.11

−.09

Stimulation

−.22*

.05

−.04

.08

.12

Universalism

−.36***

−.29**

−.40***

−.52***

−.46***

Benevolence

−.04

−.29**

−.24**

−.22**

−.43***

Security

.20*

.28**

.24**

.26**

.25**

Conformity

.49***

.18*

.38***

.07

−.01

Tradition

.46***

.27**

.33***

−.19*

.04

Social attitudes

Revenge

.00

.29**

.19*

.14

.41***

SDO

.13

.34***

.31***

RWA

.17*

.27**

Punishment goals

Rehabilitation

−.02

−.29**

−.19*

−.26**

−.15

Retribution

.02

.33***

.22*

.04

.12

Deterrence

.14

.30***

.20*

.06

−.00

Incapacitation

.18*

.48***

.30***

.08

.17*

Capital punishment

.23**

.52***

.30***

.05

.23**

Note: Ns vary between 128 and 144 due to deletion of missing cases. Tests of significance were two-tailed. Correlations involving the ten value types were based on the ipsatized scores

p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001

An examination of the relations between the RWA components and the punitive measures showed that authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission correlated positively with retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and support for capital punishment and negatively with endorsement of rehabilitation, whereas conventionalism was positively related only to incapacitation and support for capital punishment.

Table 3 also shows the relations between the two components of SDO (OEQ and GBD) and the major variables. Both subscales were positively related to the hedonism, power, and security value types, and negatively related to the universalism and benevolence value types. OEQ was positively related to the achievement value type and negatively related to the tradition value type. Where the full-scale SDO score had correlated positively with vengeance attitudes, Table 3 shows that this relation was based primarily on the contribution of GBD. Looking at the punitive measures, OEQ was correlated negatively with rehabilitation, while GBD was correlated positively with the endorsement of incapacitation. Of the two subscales only GBD was positively correlated with capital punishment.

Intercorrelations between the RWA and SDO subscales show that authoritarian aggression correlated positively with both OEQ, r(136) = .23, p < .01, and GBD, r(136) = .36, p < .001. Authoritarian submission also correlated positively with both OEQ, r(145) = .21, p < .05, and GBD, r(145) = .33, p < .001. The conventionalism component of RWA did not correlate significantly with either OEQ or GBD (rs of .05 and .13, respectively).

Principal Components Analysis

In order to provide another way of looking at the structure of relations among vengeance attitudes, SDO, RWA, and the ten value types, we performed a principal components analysis on the 16 variables. For this analysis we included the subscales of RWA and SDO rather than the full-scale scores because we were interested in seeing whether there were differences in the loadings for the various components. Although there is some debate in the literature about the use of exploratory factor analytic techniques to examine circumplex models and ipsatized variables (Baron, 1996; Cornwell & Dunlap, 1994; Saville & Wilson, 1991), problems associated primarily with multicollinearity should be reduced by also including non-ipsatized variables in the analysis, as undertaken here. Previous principal component analyses of Schwartz’s (1992) circumplex model of values using ipsatized value measures (Cohrs et al., 2005; Hinz, Brahler, Schmidt, & Albani, 2005) have provided clear and interpretable solutions that accord, in principle, with theory.

We conducted a two-factor solution of these variables with varimax rotation that enabled us to relate factor loadings to the two-dimensional circumplex structure of the value types as proposed by Schwartz (1992). Table 4 presents the factor loadings for the two factors. The first extracted component, explaining 23.62% of the variance, is similar to the self-enhancement versus self-transcendence dimension, with positive loadings for power and negative loadings for benevolence and universalism. Also loading positively on this factor were GBD and OEQ together with vengeance attitudes. The security value type, normally found on the conservation dimension, also loaded positively on this component. The second component, explaining 23.05% of the variance, can be associated with the conservation versus openness-to-change dimension, with positive loadings for tradition and conformity and negative loadings for self-direction, hedonism, and stimulation. The three RWA subscales also loaded positively on this factor. The achievement value type failed to load substantially on either component.
Table 4

Factor loadings of value types, attitudes toward revenge, and subscales of social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism

Variable

Factor 1

Factor 2

GBD

.78

−.04

Power

.74

.02

Benevolence

−.65

.14

OEQ

.65

−.13

Universalism

−.64

−.21

Security

.56

.15

Revenge

.55

−.10

RWA-conventionalism

.15

.85

Tradition

−.04

.75

Conformity

−.02

.70

Self-direction

−.07

−.64

RWA-aggression

.49

.63

RWA-submission

.54

.62

Hedonism

.42

−.56

Stimulation

.13

−.46

Achievement

.04

−.28

Note: GBD, group-based dominance; OEQ, opposition to equality

Figure 3 shows a two-dimensional representation of the factorial structure of the circumplex model, together with the RWA and SDO subscales and vengeance attitudes. As the figure shows, most of the value types lie in close proximity to their predicted positions in the circumplex model, with some exceptions. Achievement, though not loading substantially on either factor, appears to be more closely associated with the values comprising the openness-to-change dimension than with those comprising the self-enhancement dimension. The security value type is associated more closely with the self-enhancement dimension than with the conservation values of tradition and conformity.
Fig. 3

Factorial structure of the ipsatized values and social attitude variables

Predictors of Capital Punishment

In order to investigate the predictors of support for capital punishment in more detail, we conducted a hierarchical multiple regression analysis with support for capital punishment as the dependent variable. In addition to vengeance attitudes, SDO, and RWA, we included values as independent predictors in the analysis by first creating four new variables that reflected the higher-order dimensions of conservation (averaging each participant’s mean scores for the tradition, conformity, and security value types), openness-to-change (averaging each participant’s mean scores for the hedonism, self-direction, and stimulation value types), self-enhancement (averaging each participant’s mean scores for the power, and achievement value types), and self-transcendence (averaging each participant’s mean scores for the benevolence and universalism value types). As hedonism may theoretically be associated with either the self-enhancement or the openness-to-change value dimensions (Schwartz, 1992), we assigned it to the latter on the basis of the preceding principal components analysis. Following Feather (1995), we then computed difference scores for each participant by subtracting the mean score for openness-to-change from the mean score for conservation and the mean score for self-transcendence from the mean score for self-enhancement, leaving two higher-order dimension scores: conservation versus openness-to-change (higher scores indicating a greater endorsement of conservation values); and self-enhancement versus self-transcendence (higher scores indicating a greater endorsement of self-enhancement values).

Results of the analysis can be seen in Table 5. At Step 1, endorsement of self-enhancement over self-transcendent values was a positive predictor of support for capital punishment but endorsement of conservation over openness-to-change values did not contribute significantly to the equation. At Step 2 with the introduction of vengeance attitudes, SDO, and RWA, the influence of the self-enhancement values also diminished, leaving vengeance attitudes and RWA as the only predictors of support for capital punishment, explaining almost 20% of the variance.
Table 5

Results of hierarchical multiple regression predicting support for capital punishment with higher order value dimensions, vengeance attitudes, RWA, and SDO

Variable

Step 1 (β)

Step 2 (β)

Self-enhancement versus self-transcendence

.19*

−.01

Openness to change versus conservation

.04

−.10

Vengeance attitudes

 

.29**

SDO

 

−.03

RWA

 

.30**

R2

.04

.19

ΔR2

.15

ΔF

2.36

7.13***

p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001

Table 6 shows the result of replacing the full-scale RWA and SDO scores with the five subscale scores in the regression predicting support for capital punishment, with the higher-dimension value differentials entered at Step1, the RWA and SDO subscales entered at Step 2, and vengeance attitudes entered at Step 3. At Step 2 the RWA subscales of authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission were positive predictors of support for capital punishment, but the RWA subscale of conventionalism was negatively related to support for capital punishment. Neither of the SDO subscales related significantly to support for capital punishment. In the final step vengeance attitudes were entered as a positive predictor together with authoritarian aggression. Authoritarian submission showed a trend toward positive support for capital punishment and conventionalism remained as a negative predictor of support for capital punishment. A further multiple regression analysis testing just the three RWA components as predictors of capital punishment revealed that both authoritarian submission and authoritarian aggression were positive predictors of support for the death penalty (βs of .37 and .36, respectively) while conventionalism was a negative predictor (β = −.33). All predictors were now significant.
Table 6

Results of hierarchical multiple regression predicting support for capital punishment with higher order value dimensions, vengeance attitudes, RWA subscales of conventionalism, authoritarian aggression, and authoritarian submission, and the SDO subscales opposition to equality and group-based dominance

Variable

Step 1 (β)

Step 2 (β)

Step 3 (β)

Self-enhancement versus self-transcendence

.19*

.02

.02

Openness-to-change versus conservation

.04

.02

.03

RWA-conventionalism

 

−.33*

−.29*

RWA-aggression

 

.31*

.31*

RWA-submission

 

.33*

.28

Opposition to equality

 

−.15

−.13

Group-based dominance

 

.15

.05

Vengeance attitudes

  

.20*

R2

.04

.23

.26

ΔR2

.19

.03

ΔF

2.36

5.72***

4.57*

p < .06; * p < .05; *** p < .001

Discussion

The main contribution of this study is the investigation of the value base of vengeance attitudes, and relations among vengeance attitudes, punishment goals, and attitudes toward capital punishment. The study makes an important contribution by providing evidence about the correlates of a relatively unexplored justice variable, namely revenge or vengeance attitudes. The results of this study provided support for a number of the proposed hypotheses. Vengeance attitudes were correlated moderately with SDO, as predicted, but not with full-scale RWA scores, while SDO and RWA were correlated moderately, as reported in other studies (Cohrs et al., 2005; Duckitt et al., 2002). Vengeance attitudes did, however, correlate positively with the RWA subscales authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission, though not with conventionalism. The pattern of correlations among the three social attitude variables and the ten value types provided support for the prediction that vengeance attitudes and SDO would share a common set of values, and that these values would be associated with the higher-order value dimension of self-enhancement versus self-transcendence proposed by Schwartz (1992, 1996). Hedonism and power values correlated positively with both vengeance attitudes and SDO, while universalism and benevolence values correlated negatively. Consistent with previous findings (e.g., Feather, 1996, 2005; Rohan & Zanna, 1996), high RWA scorers assigned more importance to tradition, security, conformity, and power value types, and less importance to hedonism, self-direction, and universalism value types. Correlations among all three of the social attitude variables and the ten value types also clearly demonstrated the sinusoidal pattern of relations predicted by Schwartz.

The correlational analyses, together with the results of the principal components analysis, showed that two main factors could be extracted from the set of values in combination with the social attitude measures: a factor corresponding to the self-enhancement—self-transcendence dimension on which both vengeance attitudes and the SDO subscales loaded positively—and a factor corresponding to the conservation—openness-to-change dimension on which the RWA subscales loaded positively.

With respect to SDO and RWA, these findings replicate those of other researchers (Altemeyer, 1998; Cohrs et al., 2005; Duckitt, 2001; Duckitt et al., 2002), who have noted the positive but generally weak relation between RWA and SDO, as well as the similarity of that relation to two broad sets of sociocultural attitudes and values reflecting, on the one hand, a social-conservatism versus personal freedom dimension (with which RWA is associated) and, on the other hand, a self-interest versus social welfare dimension (associated with SDO). As the principal components analysis indicated, vengeance attitudes were found to associate more strongly with the second of these dimensions, loading positively with the power value type and negatively with the universalism and benevolence value types.

Vengeance attitudes would thus appear to reflect a focus on power values, emphasizing social power, authority, and a concern with the preservation of one’s public image, while at the same time de-emphasizing values associated with understanding and tolerance (universalistic values) and consideration of the welfare of those within one’s social network (benevolence values). Values such as the importance of social power and one’s public image or “face” are also those that have been associated with the culture of honor observed in the Southern and Western states of the United States (Cohen & Nisbett, 1994; Nisbett, 1993; Nisbett & Cohen, 1996) where, the authors suggest, aggressive reactions to perceived slights and threats to one’s social standing are characteristic social norms. The acceptance of retaliatory or vengeful behavior as an acceptable social reaction to a perceived injustice in such cultures is linked to the maintenance of status and social reputation, important components of power and authority concerns. This emphasis on social power and status concerns may thus be a common feature of both individuals and cultures with attitudes emphasizing vengeful behavior and dominance as social norms.

The study found varied support for the predicted relations between the social attitude variables and the sentencing goals. Vengeance attitudes demonstrated the pattern of relations most consistent with hypotheses, predicting support for retribution and incapacitation and opposition to rehabilitation. Authoritarians endorsed incapacitation and deterrence as sentencing goals, while SDO was related negatively to rehabilitation.

While all three social attitude variables were positively related to support for capital punishment, the results of the more fine-grained regression analysis indicated that only vengeance attitudes and the RWA subscales of authoritarian aggression and conventionalism remained as unique predictors when all other variables were entered. This finding has implications for those arguments that attempt to distance retributive punishment, in general, and capital punishment, in particular, from revenge-based motivations (Nozick, 1981). Our results suggest that at least some component of support for capital punishment does have a basis in attitudes related to vengeance, and that these attitudes make an independent contribution to the prediction of attitudes toward capital punishment over and above the contributions made by authoritarian attitudes and other variables. Similarly Ho, ForsterLee, ForsterLee, and Crofts (2002) found that they were able to distinguish between legitimate justice concerns and vengeance-related concerns in motives underlying punitive decisions within the justice system, and our results add support to their findings by demonstrating the role played by vengeance attitudes in retributive punishment goals and support for capital punishment.

Our results also give support to those authors who maintain that vengeance-related motives are linked in a deep-seated way to a desire for justice (Oldenquist, 1988; Solomon, 1989, 1994) and that vengeful desire in its sanitized form becomes a desire for retributive justice. There is increasing evidence that even when restorative justice options are available, severe crimes will elicit demands for a retributive element to imposed penalties (Gromet & Darley, 2006; Roberts & Stalans, 1998), and these demands have been linked with the desire for “just deserts” (Carlsmith et al., 2002; Darley, Carlsmith, & Robinson, 2000).

When we examined the three attitudinal clusters of RWA we found some striking differences, particularly between conventionalism, on the one hand, and authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission, on the other hand. As might be expected from theoretical considerations, conventionalism was related to the conservation dimension (comprising tradition, conformity, and security concerns), and further evidence for this may be seen in the lack of correlation between conventionalism and either SDO or vengeance attitudes. Looking at the sentencing goals, we found that conventionalism correlated weakly with incapacitation and only marginally more strongly with capital punishment, compared to the consistent set of correlations displayed by both authoritarian aggression and submission. The main punitive element in authoritarian attitudes thus appears to derive from these latter two components.

We also saw this clearly in the regression analysis predicting capital punishment and incorporating the three attitudinal components of RWA. While all three components were positively related to support for capital punishment at the zero-order correlational level, when they were entered simultaneously into a regression analysis only authoritarian aggression and authoritarian submission remained as positive predictors of capital punishment as expected, while conventionalism reversed the direction of its relation with capital punishment.

The negative relation between conventionalism and support for capital punishment is consistent with the results from a simultaneous regression reported by Funke (2005), in which authoritarian aggression was found to be a positive predictor of the length of sentence handed out in a rape case vignette, whereas conventionalism and authoritarian submission were negative predictors. These differential effects cancelled each other out, leaving no observable relation between total RWA score and the awarding of a punitive sentence. In our study, the full-scale RWA score was a significant positive predictor of the endorsement of capital punishment, and the differential influences were only revealed at the more fine-grained level of analysis involving the three components.

What might have brought about the reversal in the direction of the relation between conventionalism and support for capital punishment? One possible explanation lies in the RWA scale itself, which was designed by Altemeyer (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992) to be a unidimensional scale reflecting three conceptually distinct attitudinal clusters, with most items on the scale tapping into at least two, and sometimes three, of the components. Efforts have been made to extract these three components from the RWA scale itself (Cohrs et al., 2005; Funke, 2005) with mixed success, while a more fruitful line of research attempts to measure the three components separately using multidimensional scales (Bizumic, Duckitt, & Bosnjak, 2007). Our study appears to have at least tapped the predominant components in each of the RWA scale items, to the extent that differing relations between our derived subscales and other variables were revealed. At the correlational level these differences may be observed in the pattern of relations with the value types, with SDO and vengeance attitudes, and with the punishment goals. When all three RWA subscales were used as simultaneous predictors of support for capital punishment, the negative relation between conventionalism and support for capital punishment that emerged may have been the result of a suppressor effect caused by overlapping content variance at the item level. After controlling for the variance explained by RWA aggression and RWA submission, conventionalism was shown to be a unique negative predictor of capital punishment.

Given this argument, why might there be differences in relations among the three RWA components and support for capital punishment? One line of reasoning might be that individuals high in the conventionalism component may be upholding the general cultural norms in Australia, where there is no capital punishment for crime. Although current statistics tend to suggest that a majority of the Australian population favors the re-introduction of capital punishment for crimes such as murder (Walton, 2005), individuals who are high in the conventionalism component may support the status quo and therefore may be more likely to oppose capital punishment. In the current study the mean score for support for capital punishment was below the midpoint of the scale, showing a general lack of support in our sample of first year university students.

Further investigation using wider samples of the population is needed to tease out the relations between the RWA components and punitive sentencing. Cross-cultural studies may also reveal differences in the direction of these relations, especially in cultures in which social norms and authorities favor capital punishment and other retributive forms of criminal punishment. It would also be advantageous to use scales expressly designed to measure the specific RWA components (Bizumic et al., 2007; Funke, 2005) in order to avoid any potential problems associated with extracting the components from blended items such as those comprising the RWA scale (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992).

In conclusion, our study contributes to justice research in a number of ways. First, it provides new information about a neglected variable in justice research, namely revenge, and how it relates to other variables such as RWA and SDO that have received much more attention in the literature. Second, by placing social attitudes such as RWA, SDO, and attitudes toward revenge within a values framework, we have been able to examine their interrelations, as well as the similarities and differences that may underlie their relations with other variables of interest—in this case, sentencing goals and support for capital punishment. We also used the same framework to explore the pattern of relations associated with the three attitudinal components of the RWA scale and the two components of the SDO scale, and their subsequent influence on attitudes toward capital punishment. The contribution of differing social attitudes and values toward the sentencing goals examined in the current study goes some way toward revealing the underlying structure associated with punitive attitudes in the criminal justice system, and at the same time allows us to consider these sets of relations in terms of a consistent theoretical background and to tie them to a central set of values and belief structures.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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