Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Robert Gebotys

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


There is a need at present to understand the basis of seriousness judgments and the following sentence recommendation with respect to judicial decision-making. The defensive attribution model (cf. Jones & Davis, 1965) suggests that assessments of responsibility are strongly influenced by perceived intent freedom and duration factors, along with the material consequences of act. One’s attitude toward punishment has also been implicated as strongly related to the resulting sentencing decision imposed upon the offender. The role of these factors in seriousness and sentencing respectively was explored in the present research. The study also observed the role of three situational factors present in the crime—Damage/Restitution (in terms of whether there was damage and if so whether or not the damage was redeemable), Type of Damage (personal or property) and Apprehension (whether or not the offender was caught). The defensive attribution was supported in that seriousness perceptions were found to be strongly related to both perceptions of damage as well as attributions of responsibility. Results confirmed expectations regarding some sentencing decisions as well. Importance ratings on the five purposes and crime severity ratings bore strong positive relationships to the sentence recommended for the crime. Conditions where the offender escaped arrest generally resulted in higher severity ratings, greater attributions of intent and freedom and longer prison sentences. These conditions received higher importance ratings on purposes of punishment as well. It was also demonstrated that an increase in the negative consequences of the crime in terms of redeemability of the damage/injury led to higher ratings of seriousness, greater attributions of intent (not freedom) and longer prison sentences. These results were evaluated as providing convergent support for the defensive attribution model. The use, applications and limitations of the study were finally discussed.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season