The purpose of these studies was to examine the principles people engage in when thinking about punishment, using a new measure (the Punishment Orientation Questionnaire [POQ]). Although traditional conceptualizations of punishment divide it into utilitarianism (e.g., deterrence) and retributivism (“eye for an eye”), we argue that a more useful metric of lay attitudes concerns orientation toward or away from punishment. After pilot testing and factor analysis, we used item response theory to assess four scales: prohibitive utilitarianism (limiting punishment based on utility), prohibitive retributivism (aversion to punishing innocent people), permissive utilitarianism (willingness to give strict punishment based on the benefits thereof), and permissive retributivism (desire for just deserts). The POQ showed good predictive validity for capital jury eligibility and sentencing recommendation in response to a death penalty trial stimulus. This study provides a better understanding of how classic punishment philosophies manifest among laypersons and contributes data outside of classical test theory.

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Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Yamamoto, S. (Susan), & Maeder, E.M. (2019). Creating the Punishment Orientation Questionnaire: An Item Response Theory Approach. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. doi:10.1177/0146167218818485