Formation and change in lay evaluations of criminal sentencing - Misperception and Discontent

Loretta J. Stalans*, Shari Seidman Diamond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


In public opinion polls, a substantial proportion of lay respondents report that judges are too lenient. We examine the factors that contribute to this perceived judicial leniency. The majority of lay respondents in our study said that judges are "too lenient" in their sentencing of burglary offenders; yet, their own sentencing preferences were more lenient than the required minimum sentence for residential burglary. Our survey and experimental data suggest that citizens' opinions are formed by their inaccurate impressions of the seriousness of actual criminal cases as well as actual judicial sentencing practices. Our experimental research indicates that opinions of judicial leniency can be changed by providing respondents with an example of the typical case that comes before the court. Directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-214
Number of pages16
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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