Can perceptions of sex offenders be influenced by primacy effects in impression formation?
Robinson, Jade Louise
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background research: Previous research has indicated that the primacy effect influences much of what is integral within society, policy makers have often been criticised within literature for enforcing policies that isn’t supported by literary findings and is based more so on moral panic. It has been noted that through the primacy effect we are often more inclined to select the first electoral candidate on a list given that it is the first piece of information we encounter. Research also suggests that we can be influenced by contextual information prior to decision making. Society currently holds a perception that sex offenders are unable to reintegrate regardless of their success during the treatment process. This negative perception is often fuelled by media coverage that has been deemed inaccurate in its portrayal of offenders and the rates at which sexual offences occur. With such findings in previous literature this study’s aims were to determine whether or not the primacy effect in impression formation could influence the perceptions of sex offenders to a student population. Method: 60 undergraduate students were selected for this study and chosen at random to be included in one of two groups. Group A were presented with positive information prior to negative information on a fictitious sex offenders, Group B were presented with negative information prior to positive in the same circumstances. Each participant was required to complete the perceptions of sex offenders scale and the results were analysed using a two-way anova and post hoc Bonferroni analysis. Results indicated that those who were shown negative information prior to positive information, Group B, were more inclined to strongly agree with negative statements within the scale and thus were subject to the influence of the primacy effect. This study positively identified an influence of the primacy effect on perceptions of sex offenders. Inclusion criteria for this study was not specific in the forms of identifying sex and age group and so more research needs to be conducted in order to determine if such criteria has an effect on perceptions. More research into the aspects of recidivism also need to be explored.
BSc (Hons) Psychology
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