Term of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Rebecca Ryan

Committee Member 1

Amy Hackney

Committee Member 2

Shauna Joye


Over 50% of inmates have mental health problems (James & Glaze, 2006) and specific diagnostic labels have been shown to adversely affect sentencing outcomes (e.g., Edens, Desforges, Fernandez, & Palac, 2004). We applied social categorization, attribution theory, and psychological essentialism to clarify the ways diagnostic labels perpetuate stigmatization of defendants by assessing sentencing and facility recommendations, future dangerousness predictions, and defendant controllability and stability attributions. These measures were administered after participants read a vignette describing a crime where the perpetrator varied according to the diagnostic labels: Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), Schizophrenia, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These labels were associated with more psychiatric facility recommendations compared to a no-label control condition, and ADHD was associated with more prison recommendations compared to the other labels. Controllability attributions were significantly different when ADHD and no-label were compared to ASPD, Schizophrenia, and ASD, and when Schizophrenia was compared to ASD. Stability attributions were significantly different between the no-label condition and each of the diagnostic labels. These findings suggest that jurors may consider certain labels as mitigating evidence when making legal decisions, whereas other labels may be less mitigating.