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Appropriately Upset? Emotion Norms and Perceptions of Crime Victims

  • Publication: Law & Human Behavior

2006, Janice Nadler, Law & Human Behavior

Mary R. Rose, Janice Nadler, & Jim Clark (2006) “Appropriately Upset? Emotion Norms and Perceptions of Crime Victims” 30 Law & Human Behavior 203-219.

Victims who express less emotion in response to a crime are perceived as less deserving,
less sympathetic, and they have less punishment assigned to the offender who committed
the crime. This study considers the extent to which emotion norms underlie perceptions of
victims who testify. Two studies investigate the circumstances in which emotional reactions to
a crime are seen as “unusual” and whether a more general emotion norm underlies responses to
victim testimony.We test a “victim-role” norm against a “proportionality” norm by crossing the
severity of victim’s emotional response (severe or mild) with the seriousness of a crime (serious
or less serious). Results across two studies lend greater support to the notion that people expect
victims to match the intensity of their emotional response to the seriousness of the event (i.e., a
proportionality rule), although we also find instances in which expectations of the victim are not
strong. Gender of the victim exhibited small and contingent effects.We discuss the relevance of
emotion norms to legal settings.
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