What information shapes and shifts people’s attitudes about capital punishment?

AbstractAlthough most Americans support capital punishment, many people have misconceptions about its efficacy and administration (e.g., that capital punishment deters crime). Can correcting people’s inaccurate attitudes change their support for the death penalty? If not, are there other strategies that might shift people’s attitudes about the death penalty? Some research suggests that statistical information can correct misconceptions about polarizing topics. Still, statistics might be irrelevant for some people because they may support capital punishment for purely retributive reasons, suggesting other argumentative strategies may be more effective. In Studies 1 and 2, we examined what attitudes shape endorsement of capital punishment and compared how two different interventions shifted these attitudes. Altogether, our findings suggest that attitudes about capital punishment are based on more than just retributive motives, and that correcting misconceptions related to its administration reduces support for capital punishment.

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