Year of Publication

2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Jonathan M. Golding

Abstract

Emerging research has shown that women and men perceive criminal stalking differently, yet there is little research addressing why these differences exist. For example, mock juror research on intimate stalking has found that men are more likely than women to render lenient judgments (e.g., not-guilty verdicts). Understanding the underlying attitudes associated with differences in how men and women interpret whether certain behaviors would cause reasonable fear is crucial to an evaluation of current anti-stalking legislation. The primary goals of this research were: (1) to examine the extent to which beliefs that support stalking (i.e., stalking myth acceptance – SMA victim blame, SMA flattery, and SMA nuisance) predicted individual trial judgments of men and women, and (2) to test whether endorsement of SMA can be predicted from particular attitudinal correlates (e.g., hostility toward women). Overall, women were more likely than men (N = 360) to render trial judgments (e.g., guilty verdicts) supportive of the victim and were less likely to endorse SMA beliefs. Results also indicated that endorsement of particular SMA beliefs and personal experience (being the victim of and/or knowing a victim) explained why women and men differed on some trial judgments. For example, the odds of rendering a guilty verdict were less for participants who endorsed SMA flattery beliefs. In addition, participants who reported knowing someone who had been a victim were at greater odds of rendering a guilty verdict. Finally, participants who endorsed more traditional gender-role stereotypes were more likely to adhere to SMA beliefs. Results provide insight into the efficacy of current anti-stalking legislation that relies on a juror’s capacity to evaluate an “objective” interpretation (i.e., “reasonable person”) standard of fear for intimate stalking.

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