Moral Foundations, Intuitions of Justice, and the Intricacies of Punitive Sentiment

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27 Scopus citations


Research on punitive attitudes has, so far, focused largely on people's retributive attitudes toward offenders. However, a large theoretical body of research indicates that concerns about different types of offenses and victims may be just as important in structuring punitive attitudes. Particularly, Moral Foundations Theory suggests that distinct punitive attitudes may be based in intuitive moral concerns (“moral foundations”) about offenses that victimize individuals, groups, and the “divine,” referring to bodily purity or sanctity. In this study, I develop measures of what I term “victim-centered punitiveness,” and use data from a nationwide survey of adult Americans (N = 915) to compare the sources of offender- and victim-centered punitiveness. As expected, different moral foundations shape offender- and victim-centered punitiveness in different ways, suggesting that they have distinct intuitive, moral bases. Other factors, including racial resentment, also have distinct effects on each type of punitiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-450
Number of pages38
JournalLaw and Society Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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