Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts - Psychology



First Advisor

Sylvia Middlebrook, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

James Schaeffer, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Scott Drury, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

George Day, Ph.D.


Experiencing trauma can result in neurological and biological changes, precipitating long-term damage to the brain and body. A considerable proportion of incarcerated persons have reported that they have experienced some type of trauma (Stensrud, Gilbride, & Bruinekool, 2018). Using scenarios of hypothetical crimes of varying degrees of seriousness, this study explores whether disclosure of the perpetrator’s traumatic childhood experiences has an influence on the severity of the sentence that mock jurors would recommend for that perpetrator. The mock jurors’ trait empathy, Belief in a Just World, and their own traumatic experiences were assessed to determine whether these characteristics could account for the variation in recommended sentences. No significant differences were found between the recommended sentences of perpetrators who experienced trauma and perpetrators who did not. However, participants’ optional, digitally written explanations of their rationale provided more insight into these dynamics and inspires opportunities for future research.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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