By Andrew Hammel (auth.)
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Extra resources for Ending the Death Penalty: The European Experience in global Perspective
A 2001 study found that requiring college students to read an essay about the high risk of executing an innocent person ‘only weakly reduced support for capital punishment’ (Lambert and Clarke 2001:227). These findings harmonize with the conclusion this and the following chapter urge: most people do not support the death penalty because they are rationally convinced that the process for inflicting it is fair. Instead, they support it because – in their view – it metes out fitting justice to people who have committed savage crimes.
Haidt theorized, to paraphrase the title of his paper, that the emotional tail was wagging the rational dog – that is, that study What Does the Worldwide Popularity of Capital Punishment Tell Us? 33 participants felt a strong aversion to the activities on an emotional level, even though they were unable to furnish convincing rational explanations for their reactions. ‘The central claim of the social intuitionist model is that moral judgment is caused by quick moral intuitions and is followed (when needed) by slow, ex post facto moral reasoning’ (Haidt 2001:817).
Second, What Does the Worldwide Popularity of Capital Punishment Tell Us? 39 the effect of legal reform in reducing the scope of capital punishment only to those convicted of aggravated murder, a subset of the population which is unlikely to evoke much sympathy among the public. Third, an analogue of the legitimation effect described by Steiker and Steiker: the conviction that the criminal justice system is reliable enough to generally select the right people for potential execution, despite occasional highly publicized miscarriages of justice.