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

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.

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Correspondence to Ian R. McKee.

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McKee, I.R., Feather, N.T. Revenge, Retribution, and Values: Social Attitudes and Punitive Sentencing. Soc Just Res 21, 138 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-008-0066-z

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Keywords

  • Revenge
  • Values
  • Authoritarianism
  • Social dominance
  • Sentencing goals