Age/Cohort Differences in Judgments about Criminal Transgressions

J. L. Rankin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


To examine possible age/cohort differences in social judgment processes, young and older adults were asked to evaluate criminal offenders described in case files that manipulated both race of offender and the extenuating circumstances preceding the crime. Direct mail was used to reach a wider sample; 218 young (M = 30.21 years) and 167 older (M = 68.57 years) adults provided usable responses. Older adults more strongly recommended parole and estimated less future crime than young adults. There were no age differences in attributions to the criminal's basic nature, but respondents from older age groups and earlier born cohorts more frequently attributed crimes to circumstances. Respondents' judgments of White and Black criminals were generally equitable. Findings suggest that older adults may attach greater importance to contextual factors in their judgments of criminals' actions and make more circumstantial attributions than young adults when there is sufficient context to offer a nondispositional account for behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-135
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Adult Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000


  • Adult age differences
  • Attributions
  • Postformal operations
  • Prejudice
  • Stereotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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