If you’re being sentenced for murder does it make a difference if you’re 20, 40 or 60?

After reading a murder or theft vignette in which the perpetrator was a 20-, 40-, or 60-year-old man, 95 undergraduates gave sentence and parole recommendations. Punishment was harsher for the murder than for the theft. For murder, participants treated the 20- and 60-year-old men less harshly than the 40-year-old man, which confirms previous archival findings. However, this inverted U-shaped function occurred for murder only. The authors discussed the results in the context of the just-desert and utilitarian rationales that guide sentencing and gave suggestions for future research.

Source: “Effects of Defendant Age on Severity of Punishment for Different Crimes” from The Journal of Social Psychology Issue: Volume 144, Number 1 / February 2004

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