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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.
Abstract: In criminology, compliance is a central focus of the deterrence and rational choice perspectives on crime. In turn, these perspectives have been guided by traditional microeconomics. Behavioral economics, a recent branch of economics which pivots from and amplifies economic theories, has increasingly informed decision-making on a range of matters, including public health and finance. Criminologists have begun to marshal behavioral economic insights to better understand decisions surrounding crime and transgression. Prominent in behavioral economics are heuristics and biases in judgments under uncertainty. These involve shortcuts, rules of thumb, and other deviations from traditional economic norms, in how people navigate uncertainty. This chapter discusses how various biases and heuristics from behavioral economics research affect one of the most prominent decision-making constructs in criminology and compliance – perceptions about the likelihood of punishment for a contemplated transgression.
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