We explore the possibility that disgust sensitivity predicts attitudes toward a stigmatized, yet vulnerable population: juvenile sex offenders. Participants were 125 undergraduates (66% women, M age = 19) who read a case depicting a 17‐year‐old boy convicted of aggravated child molestation for receiving oral sex from an intoxicated 15‐year‐old girl. Participants subsequently indicated the degree to which they supported registering the juvenile offender as a sex offender and completed a series of case judgments (i.e., belief the defendant is a threat, the dehumanizing belief the defendant is a superpredator, and defendant empathy). Finally, participants provided demographic information and completed the Disgust Sensitivity Scale. In line with our hypotheses, as disgust sensitivity increased, support for juvenile sex offender registration also increased. Yet, this relationship was explained by various mediating factors. Specifically, a series of models tested via path analysis showed that as disgust sensitivity increased, participants’ were more likely to dehumanize the offender as a “superpredator” and experience diminished empathy. In turn, dehumanization and diminished empathy predicted the belief the defendant is a threat to society, which predicted greater registration support.
Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 2015