Perception of Culpability as a Function of Participant Age, Race and Defendant Race


Taylor Garnes

Date of Award


Degree Type

Archival Copy

First Advisor

Charles Sachs


The purpose of this study was to examine perceived culpability as a function of participant age, race and scenario character race. One hundred eighty five participants in a suburban New England mall food court were asked to read an ambiguous scenario depicting a character that may have resisted while being arrested. The scenario character was depicted as either white or black and participants were recruited based on their age and race. The results of this study illuminated the impact of legal authoritarianism toward those accused of resisting police action, as a robust negative correlation was found between legal authoritarianism and perceived culpability of the defendant. Implications of this study include the consistency of legal attitude independent of age, participant race and scenario character race. This study illuminated the driving force of authoritarianism regardless of other participant or scenario characteristics.

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