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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: May 2021

15 - General Deterrence: Review with Commentary on Decision-Making

from Part II - Deterrence and Incapacitation


Abstract: Abundant research has investigated general deterrence, a process whereby threats of punishment reduce crime rates. This chapter has several purposes: 1) to briefly explain the rational choice perspective on deterrence; 2) to highlight several empirical challenges to the causal estimation of deterrent effects; 3) to evaluate the evidence for general deterrence from research that takes these challenges to causal estimation most seriously; and 4) to explain how additional perspectives are needed from behavioral economics and psychology to fully understand deterrence, and in particular the empirical regularity that the deterrent capacity of the certainty of punishment far exceeds that of sanction severity.