Perceived freedom, accident severity and empathic value as determinants of the attribution of responsibility

James M. Gleason1, Victor A. Harris2
1State University of New York at Buffalo, New Zealand
2Niagara Falls Community Mental Health Center, Canada
Cite this article:  Gleason, J. M., & Harris, V. A. (1976). Perceived freedom, accident severity and empathic value as determinants of the attribution of responsibility. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 4, 171-176.

Volume 4 Issue 2 | e129 | Published: August 1976 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.1976.4.2.171

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The effects of severity of an accident, perceived freedom of the perpetrator, and empathic value of the victim were examined in a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design. N = 192 participants read detailed accident scenarios and then made judgments as to the responsibility of each of a number of plausibly responsible agents. In line with the hypotheses, participants attributed more responsibility to the perpetrator under high severity than low severity conditions, and more responsibility under high than low perceived freedom. The hypothesis that more responsibility would be attributed to the perpetrator when the victim was human than when the victim was a dog was not supported. Additionally, there was no clear evidence for victim derogation. The implications of these findings for defensive attribution and just world hypotheses as well as for methodological issues are discussed.
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