Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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Perception of the feeling of guilt experienced by the defendant is known to affect judicial sentencing. This influence differs depending on the defendant’s ethnic identity. We investigated the hypothesis that the perception of an out-group defendant’s level of host society’s norms adoption could mediate this mechanism. 64 native Belgian participants were randomly assigned to two experimental conditions, which differed in the presence or absence of guilt expressed by an out-group defendant during his audition, in a given scenario. Participants’ impression of the defendant’s social skills (warmth), his level of host’s society norms adoption, and the severity of the sentence they would attribute to this defendant were then measured. A double mediation was tested in order to explain the effect of perceived feeling of guilt on sentencing through the perception of both the defendant’s level of norms adoption and his warmth. Results revealed that all the hypotheses included in the double mediation were confirmed. These results emphasize the importance of inferences about the level of Norms Adoption by out-group members. An out-group member feeling guilty triggers inferences about his/her level of norms adoption, which is perceived as higher in comparison to a defendant who does not feel guilty. This inference induces a better perception of his social skills (warmth), which corresponds to a higher ability to be accepted in the group. In turn, it leads to a milder sentence. Limitations and implications are discussed.

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