New study examines the effect of labels: The importance of “people-first” language

By Giulia Lowe and Gwenda Willis

The present study examined the effect of offense-based labels on community members’ willingness to volunteer with people convicted for varying offenses and any priming effect of labeling language. Participants (N = 310) were randomly assigned to a label condition or a neutral condition and completed an anonymous online survey about their willingness to volunteer with different groups. The labeling condition utilized labels (e.g., “sex offenders,” “murderers”), whereas the control condition utilized neutral descriptors (e.g., “people who have committed crimes of a sexual nature”). Overall, findings supported the hypothesis that offense-based labels were associated with less willingness to volunteer, with findings most pronounced for the “sex offender” and “child sex offender” labels. Participants in the labeling condition showed greater voluntary use of labels compared with neutral language and were more likely to use labels compared with participants in the neutral condition. Implications for influencing public opinion are discussed.

The full study may be seen here.

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    • #54575 Reply

      Thanks to NARSOL for publishing this well done study.

    • #54595 Reply

      Name calling has long been part of human social behavior. In the case of the term “sexual oriented offender” carries with it negative connotation on several levels. It is a certain public general warrant based on fact of previous acknowledgement of guilt for crimes but ” posted publically” in an ” acutely ambitious way while simultaneously lacking wrongdoing as concretely outcome.” The term “attack” ambiguous in itself. A man viewing unlawful pornography proves no aggression, nor tendency toward – (The sufficiency aspect in 1 count proven). For this American it is proof enough ” was in prison for” was unambiguously embraced, under Byrne Grant coercion ( from a certain group) advance by AGs ( another group) that ALL 51 clearly embraced & implicated both ” plain liberty” AND GOV. use of the database properties to protect the public AND to aid electronic monitoring of the public by Law enforcement. AT&T Network privacy laws had to be overcome and or altered so as not to interfere with the “snapshots of internet traffic” desired by federal electronic surveillance contractors. It all began with dial up. A market needed justitication, Who better than the “sex offender” as scapegoat for the purpose. The indenture of man to database machine property maintenance by law inherently unconstitutional as ” civil & regulatory ” to Republic by sheer definition under the 13th, some without process, notwithstanding natural man’s superior rights. John Henry was replaced, and so he must give way to market forces. John was able to move on without threat, not forced to maintain that which unemployed him. Posting unlawful behavior ONLINE is very popular now. And why not? As per our leadership paving the way. We had laws prohibiting “unauthorized disclosure of DOC material” in my state. We knew better but abandoned that constitutional position on the basis of the Acts etc. Welcome to the world of warrantless search. It is best to remember private firms are as much the threat.

    • #54596 Reply
      a man without a country

      Although I have not read all of the article above, I need to share my experience with my label.

      For the last two and a half years, I have been a co-plaintiff in a civil lawsuit to try to recoup money that was taken from my late father in his last two weeks almost six years ago. We had our problems before and after my mistake 20 years ago, but he stuck with me during my legal limbo and probation. He hated the hypocrisy of the law and the accusers. A few years before he died, my father moved onto the property of his second cousins. When I visited my father from my overseas home, ten years ago, I needed to renew my driver’s license. That’s how the cousins learned of my transgression, when the local gestapo started paying visits (many!) because they thought I was living in my father’s travel trailer on their small property.

      That’s also how they thought they could (and eventually did) get away with taking big money from my father that should have gone to help me and my new family overseas. “He’s a SO! He won’t be able to fight us for the money back!” (I’d been joint tenant with rights of survivorship on the account). When the lawsuit finally got filed four years after the fact, I let my lawyers know about my transgression and they agreed it really had nothing to do with the present case although the ignorant cousins thought they could cast doubt on my claim by bringing up my past.

      I get the impression that everyone involved (cousins, lawyers, trust company employees, bank staff) now knows. The damned cousins likely called everyone in my father’s phone contacts to let them know he had died and his son was an SO! People who’d never known any of that these cousins decided it was within their purview to play policeman and let them know. She never said anything to me, but I suspect my ‘lady’ lawyer also had the unspoken idea in her head that this case wasn’t worth fighting and, even now with the case drying up because the defendant died, no one wants to help me try to settle things with the widow (not a defendant, but definitely an accomplice and beneficiary of the misdirected money) for the betterment of my family. Just a smidgen: the defendant and his (now widow) turned down my request for an amendment to the trust so we could get some extra money for a medical emergency.

      I wanted to share this because it seems to fit in with how the family of the RSO is also supposed to be punished.
      Ii am sick to my stomach, or I’d write more…

    • #54649 Reply
      Sharon Long

      My son was convicted of child pornography for looking at pictures online. His conviction was a NC – No Contact. He neither knew or had any contact with anyone in any of the pictures. My son was a Honorably discharged US Marine with a 40% service connected disability. My son was convicted and sentenced to 8 1/2 years behind prison walls and 15 years on probation/parole. Also he must register for the rest of his life as a sex offender. My son had no priors of any kind other than a traffic ticket that was more than 20 years old. My son now has been so labeled so he cannot find a job as his only expertise is in computers which he is not allowed to have. He also is banned from a cell phone or any other electronic gadget. He was convicted solely because at three separate occassions he looked at pornography on the internet. So now he will be paying for one mistake for the rest of his life.
      Even now, we as family members are included in this punishment. We only have certain times we can visit him or he visit us. He cannot be with any family members who have small children so he cannot participate in any holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. That also makes family inclusive in his life-time punishment. His parole officer has instructed him to not be with family members for any extended period of time, such as more than a couple of hours at a time and only for a day or two in any week, otherwise our addresses will be published online in Megan’s Law as a secondary address that opens that up to unscheduled visits by law enforcement at any time, day or night.
      So in conclusion I must say that this type of “all inclusive” punishment has him in the same category as a child rapist or molester, or other labels that follow him wherever he goes. Unfortunately, that makes all of his family a part of this type of discrimination and punishment.
      When these laws were written I do wonder if anyone of the people involved in writing these laws ever considered all the unintended consequences.

      • #55409 Reply
        Ed C

        Sharon, you will find nothing but sympathy and empathy for you and your son on this site. Many here are experiencing precisely what you describe. With this genre of crime, fear, loathing and ignorance rather than factual information are public policy drivers. Complicating that is the opportunism of politicians who gain by appearing “tough on crime.”

        Most states and the feds lump all child pornography (CP) offenses together under the rubric “Child Exploitation.” In terms of registration requirements, there is no differentiation between those who produce CP, and those like your son, who may have viewed the photos. Production necessarily involves physical sexual abuse, viewing does not. It may be harmful, but is not identical to the original abuse. In order to portray defendants in the most nefarious light, prosecutors have skillfully equated the two.

        A frequent argument is that by viewing, persons are contributing to the “marketplace” for CP, which encourages more people to molest children and produce more photos. That argument may have had some validity in the days when CP was distributed on paper. The principle of supply and demand could apply when CP needed to be purchased, reproduced, and mailed. In the internet age, supply is essentially unlimited. Once on the internet, movement of photos provides no feedback to the producer, so the supply-demand marketplace analogy logically fails. However it has been spectacularly successful as a rhetorical tool for prosecutors.

        None of that is intended to justify anything to do with CP. It merely points to how your son, and others, are unreasonably and unnecessarily punished, essentially for life. It is understandable, although not excusable, that ambitious politicians and prosecutors spin reality to gain advantage. However it is sad when judges and probation officers engage in “willful blindness” to a huge body of research, even when presented by the Justice Department, the Sentencing Commission or the federal Probation and Parole office. An often repeated phrase reminds us that each person is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts (Kelly Ann Conway notwithstanding).

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