Animalistic descriptions of violent crimes increase punishment of perpetrators (Science Daily)

Date: August 4, 2014

Source: Wiley

Summary: Describing criminals and criminal activities with animal metaphors leads to more retaliation against perpetrators by inducing the perception that they’re likely to continue engaging in violence, a new study suggests.


Describing criminals and criminal activities with animal metaphors leads to more retaliation against perpetrators by inducing the perception that they’re likely to continue engaging in violence, a new Aggressive Behavior study suggests.

When surveying jury-eligible adults, investigators varied animalistic descriptions of a violent crime and examined its effect on the severity of the punishment for the act. Compared with non-animalistic descriptions, animalistic descriptions resulted in significantly harsher punishment for the perpetrator due to an increase in perceived risk of recidivism.

“This research is yet another reminder that justice may be influenced by more than the facts of a case,” said lead author Dr. Eduardo Vasquez.

Journal Reference:

  1. Eduardo A. Vasquez, Steve Loughnan, Ellis Gootjes-Dreesbach, Ulrich Weger.The animal in you: Animalistic descriptions of a violent crime increase punishment of perpetrator. Aggressive Behavior, 2014; 40 (4): 337 DOI:10.1002/ab.21525
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