Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Social Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Judy Eaton

Advisor Role

Dr. Judy Eaton


When reporting crime, media sources can influence public perception of the crime, the victim, and the perpetrator. They can also influence the justice policies that people endorse. With support growing for more community-oriented justice policies that allow for perpetrator reintegration (Maruna & King, 2009), it is important to understand how portrayals of crime may soften public judgements toward perpetrators without reducing concern for victims. In two studies drawing from empathy-attitude effect research (Batson et al., 1998) and emotion regulation theory (Gross, 1998) this research examines how media portrayals of a crime may cause people to change their perceptions of those involved. Study 1 (N = 232) investigated whether, and how, the cognitive reappraisal strategies of compassionate reappraisal and benefit-focused reappraisal can influence judgements about a perpetrator for an intentional or unintentional crime. Unintentional crimes were viewed more positively than intentional crimes, and compassionate reappraisal led to more positive attitudes compared to rumination. Study 2 (N = 289) examined how these cognitive reappraisal strategies function alongside sensationalized or informative media portrayals of crime to influence concern for the perpetrator. The media portrayal of crime had no influence on attitudes toward the perpetrator, and compassionate reappraisal led to more positive attitudes compared to rumination in many cases, but not consistently. These findings suggest that the way a person thinks about a crime does have an impact on perceptions of those involved, but the ideal cognitive reappraisal strategy may vary based on crime circumstances. Implications are discussed for understanding how media portrayals of crime shape attitudes, forming narratives that fairly represent both perpetrators and victims, and shaping appropriate criminal justice policies.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season