Hatfield School of Government. Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Ryan M. Labrecque
Date of Award
Master of Science (M.S.) in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Criminology and Criminal Justice
1 online resource (v, 72 pages)
There is limited research measuring public opinion about the correctional practice of solitary confinement (SC). Given that public opinion can influence policies, it is important to determine whether or not one's beliefs can be updated upon receiving information about the use and effect of SC. Prior research indicates that public opinion is malleable, and thus, may be susceptible to modification. Though, people may be more willing to update their beliefs when the information they receive confirms their existing beliefs (i.e., confirmation bias). This study used an experimental design in which participants were asked to provide their opinions on a series of statements designed to measure their support for SC. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two treatment conditions that provided differing messages about the use of SC through brief, informational videos. Participants were either told that SC is a necessary tool to maintain order within prisons, or that SC is harmful to those who experience it. Following the intervention, participants' support for SC was re-measured and their change in score was calculated. Analyses indicated that participants who received information stating that SC is harmful decreased their support for the practice, while those who received information stating it was necessary increased their support for its use. To test for confirmation bias, participants were presented a survey instrument designed to measure their existing support for punishment. The findings indicate that participants had greater belief changes when presented with disconfirming information. These effects were more pronounced when examining moderating demographic variables. The research and policy implications of this study's findings are discussed.
LaBranche, Kayla J., "The Influence of Information on Public Support for Solitary Confinement: A Test of Belief Updating and Confirmation Bias" (2018). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4483.