Effects of considering who and why the defendant attacked

Wendy P. Heath, Bruce D. Grannemann, Michelle A. Peacock, Jennyfer Dulyx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Some people who are accused of a crime admit to the act, but provide an excuse. The effects of an excuse's self-inflictedness level (high, moderate, or low) and the type of victim attacked (one partially responsible for the defendant's excusing condition, or innocent victim) were investigated. After a pretest (N = 26) to choose stimuli, participants (N = 220) read a scenario in which a male attacks another and then, once on trial, gives an excuse for his act. Those giving highly vs. less self-inflicted excuses were more likely to receive a guilty verdict, received higher guilt level ratings, and tended to receive longer sentences; those who hurt an innocent vs. a partially responsible victim were more likely to be found guilty. In addition, the defendant's sentence was influenced by both the type of victim and the self-inflictedness level of the excuse. The influence of perceived responsibility for an act on jurors' decisions is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)860-887
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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