Prisoners can behave more generously than non-prisoners
- From: Lance <lancegary@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2012 12:57:57 -0700 (PDT)
Prison no bar to inmates' generosity, research shows
April 25th, 2012 in Other Sciences / Social Sciences
(Phys.org) -- Prisoners tend to be more generous than the general
public because they could be looking for ways to atone for their
crimes, research has shown.
A ground-breaking study by academics at Plymouth University showed
inmates are prepared to make greater financial sacrifices than members
of the public.
The research, published in the scientific journal Social Justice
Research, was conducted by Dr. Michaela Gummerum and Dr. Yaniv Hanoch,
both lecturers in the University’s School of Psychology.
They now hope it could be developed by policy makers, saying they
believe it could form part of a wider drive to reduce the nation’s
Dr. Gummerum said: “There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding
prisoners, principally that because they have committed crimes they
are inherently bad.
“Reports in the past have shown that inmates can show genuine
generosity and a willingness to volunteer for tasks and help others.
This is the first time a study has used experimental methods to look
at that, and we believe it shows those reports are not wide of the
To carry out their research, the academics used a sample of 50 inmates
and 50 members of the public, using three basic tests to come to their
One measured financial generosity, handing both groups a set amount of
money and seeing how much they were prepared to give to an anonymous
recipient. A questionnaire then assessed the two groups’ belief in a
just world (BJW), looking at whether they felt everyone gets what they
deserve in society, while another looked at their empathy and
The tests showed inmates had higher empathy and perspective taking
scores than non-inmates, while being in prison could have been a
constant reminder that they had received justice for their previous
actions. But the most surprising results came in the financial test,
with the prisoners on average willing to hand over almost half of the
money they were given, whereas the public were willing to part with
less than a third.
Dr. Hanoch said: “In some cases, the inmates were willing to give away
5 or 10 per cent of their monthly salary, something we did not see
mirrored among the general public. It obviously does not mean they
will automatically behave in such a manner when they are released, but
it shows they have the capacity to behave in a way we might not expect
“Creating the opportunities for prisoners to volunteer, or
accommodating those who express a desire to help, could be a way for
prisons to encourage constructive behavior. It would be a win-win
situation for all involved.
“There are studies on the general population which show volunteering
is highly associated with wellbeing and happiness. We believe it could
have an impact on inmates’ future behavior, and possibly have a chance
of bringing down reoffending rates.”
Provided by University of Plymouth
"Prison no bar to inmates' generosity, research shows." April 25th,
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