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Criminal offenders with genetic mental disorders judged more negatively, MU study finds


 

Chad R. Ratakczak, of Oshkosh, was charged Aug. 20 with 10 counts of possession of child pornography and a sex registry violation.

 

Study has implications for law, psychology, philosophy

Popular literature, crime dramas and recent trials dominating the media imply that defense attorneys who portray their clients as victims may have better outcomes. The belief is that jurors assign less blame to defendants they feel have been wronged. New research from the University of Missouri has shown that offenders with genetic mental disorders that predispose them to criminal behavior are judged more negatively than mentally disordered offenders whose criminal behavior may have been caused by environmental factors, such as childhood abuse. Additionally, offenders with genetic mental disorders are judged just as negatively as offenders whose mental disorder is given no explanation.

“We are used to thinking that if people who commit criminal acts suffer from a mental disorder, then that should be taken into account when assigning blame and punishment for their crimes,” said Philip Robbins, an associate professor of philosophy in the MU College of Arts and Science. “In our study, we wanted to determine if it mattered why and how defendants acquired those mental disorders, and how that might affect the way society assigns blame and punishment when a crime is committed.”

Robbins and Paul Litton, a professor in the MU School of Law, tested their hypothesis and explored its implications for philosophy, psychology and the law. Robbins and Litton conducted two surveys with 600 participants; the results confirmed that if the cause of a mental disorder was genetic, study participants tended to assign more blame and harsher punishment for the crime compared to cases in which the offender had a mental disorder that was not genetic in origin.

 

Philip Robbins showed that offenders with genetic mental disorders that predispose them to criminal behavior are judged more negatively than mentally disordered offenders whose criminal behavior may have been caused by environmental factors, such as childhood abuse.

 

Robbins and Litton also expected to find that different environmental explanations would elicit different judgments from those being surveyed. For example, they predicted that mitigation would be greater for someone who developed a mental disorder due to childhood abuse compared to someone whose mental disorder resulted purely by accident, such as falling off a bike.

“Our theory was that people who have been intentionally harmed by caregivers are seen as more victim-like than people who have suffered accidents,” Robbins said. “If so, intentional harm should be associated with less negative moral judgment than non-intentional harm. However, we found that whether the harm was intentional or accidental, it didn’t affect judgments of blame or punishment.”

Robbins says further research will be required to determine why there is no difference between intentional and unintentional causes of harm. However, their study adds to empirical research for defense attorneys to consider when constructing their case for a more lenient sentence. The findings suggest that presenting evidence of severe childhood abuse suffered by the defendant will be more effective than explaining the crime in genetic terms.

 

Paul Litton found that offenders with genetic mental disorders are judged just as negatively as offenders whose mental disorder is given no explanation.

 

“It’s a little surprising that genetic explanations have no mitigating effect,” Robbins said. “We think the reason is that with a genetically caused mental disorder, there is no pre-existing person who has been harmed, so the offender is not seen as a victim. In the environmental cases, the offender is seen as a victim. That’s what makes the difference.”

The study, “Crime, Punishment and Causation: The Effect of Etiological Information on the Perception of Moral Agency,” will be published later this year in the American Psychological Association journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.

 

 

                                                              


 Los delincuentes criminales con trastornos mentales genéticos son juzgados de manera más negativa, según un estudio de MU

 

Chad R. Ratakczak, of Oshkosh, was charged Aug. 20 with 10 counts of possession of child pornography and a sex registry violation.

 

El estudio tiene implicaciones para la ley, la psicología y la filosofía

La literatura popular, los dramas de crimen y los ensayos recientes que dominan los medios de comunicación implican que los abogados defensores que retratan a sus clientes como víctimas pueden tener mejores resultados. La creencia es que los jurados asignan menos culpa a los acusados ​​que sienten que han sido agraviados. Una nueva investigación de la Universidad de Missouri ha demostrado que los delincuentes con trastornos mentales genéticos que los predisponen al comportamiento criminal son juzgados de manera más negativa que los delincuentes con trastornos mentales cuya conducta criminal puede haber sido causada por factores ambientales, como el abuso infantil. Además, los delincuentes con trastornos mentales genéticos son juzgados de manera tan negativa como los delincuentes cuyo trastorno mental no tenga alguna explicación.

“Estamos acostumbrados a pensar que si las personas que cometen actos criminales sufren de un trastorno mental, entonces eso debe tenerse en cuenta al asignar la culpa y el castigo por sus crímenes”, dijo Philip Robbins, profesor asociado de filosofía en el Colegio Artes y Ciencias de la Universidad de Missouri. “En nuestro estudio, queríamos determinar si importaba por qué y cómo los acusados ​​adquirieron esos trastornos mentales, y cómo eso podría afectar la manera en que la sociedad asigna la culpa y el castigo cuando se comete un delito”.

Robbins y Paul Litton, profesor de la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Missouri, probaron su hipótesis y exploraron sus implicaciones para la filosofía, la psicología y la ley. Robbins y Litton realizaron dos encuestas a 600 participantes; los resultados confirmaron que si la causa de un trastorno mental era genética, los participantes del estudio tendían a asignar más culpa y un castigo más severo por el delito en comparación con los casos en que el delincuente tenía un trastorno mental que no era de origen genético.

 

Philip Robbins showed that offenders with genetic mental disorders that predispose them to criminal behavior are judged more negatively than mentally disordered offenders whose criminal behavior may have been caused by environmental factors, such as childhood abuse.

 

Robbins y Litton también esperaban encontrar que las diferentes explicaciones ambientales obtendrían diferentes juicios de los encuestados. Por ejemplo, predijeron que la mitigación sería mayor para alguien que desarrolló un trastorno mental debido a abuso infantil en comparación con alguien cuyo trastorno mental resultó puramente por accidente, como caerse de una bicicleta.

“Nuestra teoría fue que las personas que han sido dañadas intencionalmente por los cuidadores son vistas como más víctimas que las personas que han sufrido accidentes”, dijo Robbins. “Si es así, el daño intencional debe estar asociado con un juicio moral menos negativo que el daño no intencional. Sin embargo, encontramos que si el daño fue intencional o accidental, no afecta juicios de culpa o castigo”.

Robbins dice que se necesitará más investigación para determinar por qué no hay diferencia entre las causas intencionales y no intencionales de daño. Sin embargo, su estudio suma a la investigación empírica para que los abogados de defensa consideren al construir su caso para una sentencia más indulgente. Los hallazgos sugieren que la presentación de evidencia de abuso infantil severo sufrido por el acusado será más eficaz que explicar el crimen en términos genéticos.

 

Paul Litton found that offenders with genetic mental disorders are judged just as negatively as offenders whose mental disorder is given no explanation.

 

“Es un poco sorprendente que las explicaciones genéticas no tengan efecto atenuante”, dijo Robbins. “Creemos que la razón es que con un trastorno mental genéticamente causado, no hay ninguna persona pre-existente que haya sido dañada, por lo que el infractor no se ve como una víctima. En los casos ambientales, el delincuente es visto como una víctima. Eso es lo que marca la diferencia.”

El estudio “Crimen, Castigo y Causalidad: El Efecto de la Información Etiológica sobre la Percepción de la Agencia Moral”, será publicado este año en la revista Psychology, Public Policy y Law de la American Psychological Association.

 

 

                                                              


 

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