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Prisoners believe they have better morals than people on the outside

Posted on 13/01/2014

Prisoners believe they have better morals than people on the outside

The belief that we consider ourselves better than our peers holds true to convicted criminals as well, according to new research published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

The study by researchers from Royal Holloway, the University of Southampton and Ohio University has shown that prisoners believe themselves to have more pro-social characteristics – such as kindness,morality, self-control, and generosity – than non-prisoners.

Surprisingly,the research also showed that prisoners considered themselves as law-abiding as the average community member.

The study specifically looked at the ‘better than average effect’ (BTAE), according to which people consistently evaluate themselves more favourably than the average peer on most trait characteristics.

Dr Rosie Meek, Head of the Centre for Criminology and Sociology at Royal Holloway, said: “Our findings showed that prisoners appear to be just as likely as participants in the community to succumb to the illusion that they are better than their peers - be those peers in prison custody or not. These may be preliminary findings but will contribute to ongoing research on how best to design programmes and interventions that can reduce reoffending.”

During the study, 79 prisoners from a prison in south England filled out a questionnaire which asked them to rate themselves in comparison to the average prisoner and the average member of the community.


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