More Empathy Reduces Prison Sentences

I was really busy with my mini-project for school which is the equivalent of an advanced IA at IB level.  We got to design and run our own experiment, run the stats and report the results.  It's been the most fun part of university thus far.

We investigated how knowledge of the personal history of defendants would affect the recommended prison sentence compared to controls (same crime but no personal history mentioned).  The questions looked like this:

From the moment X was born X was kept locked in a basement by their parents.  X was never exposed to sunlight, and was also fed the same meals every day. One day X managed to escape.  X had no social skills because of their isolation and was filled with anger.  Everywhere X went they were reminded of their lonely childhood. After years of trauma X murdered 7 individuals that reminded X of their parents over a period of several months.

The participants then gave their recommended prison sentences (10-50 years) and the level of empathy felt towards the defendant (1-5).  The statistical analysis we ran was a mixed ANOVA which is beyond the scope of IB, but it basically analyzes the variances for several repeated measures conditions and independent measures with one test.  The main findings were that females give lower prison sentences than males and that when personal history of the defendant is mentioned, recommended prison sentences were lower compared to when no personal history is mentioned.  We also discovered that empathy levels were a good predictor of recommended prison sentences (higher empathy generally means lower prison sentence).

For those of you wish to read the paper and get an idea of what a 3rd year psychology lab report looks like click here.  If you want to just see the poster made to show the design, results and findings click here.

1 comment:

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