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date: 26 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In theory, deterrence is a behavioral response to an individual’s perceptions about the certainty and/or severity of criminal justice sanctions. The perceptual underpinnings of compliance with the law are therefore of long-standing interest in perceptual deterrence scholarship. This chapter provides an overview of the broad scope of this scholarship. After reviewing the basic perceptual elements of crime decision-making models, attention turns to a consideration of research on the determinants of sanction perceptions. First, the overall accuracy of sanction perceptions with respect to existing statutes and penalties is discussed. Second, the degree to which an individual’s sanction perceptions are updated in response to his or her experiences as a successful or unsuccessful offender is examined. Third, the manifold research traditions speaking to situational influences on sanction perceptions are surveyed. Emerging dual-process models inspired by research on judgment and decision making are finally considered.

Keywords: perceptual deterrence, compliance, sanctions, perceptions, dual-process model

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