Berryessa, C.M. and Wohlstetter, B. (2019). The psychopathic “label” and effects on punishment outcomes: A meta-analysis. Law and Human Behavior 43(1): 9-25.
The current study, using a meta-analytic approach and moderation analysis, examines 22 studies reporting how psychopathic “labeling” influences perceptions on 3 punishment outcomes (dangerousness, treatment amenability, and legal sentence/sanction) for 2 types of experimental studies utilizing vignettes: (a) studies in which a defendant with a psychopathic “label” is compared to a defendant with no mental health diagnosis (psychopathic label vs. no label) and (b) studies in which a defendant with a psychopathic “label” is compared to a defendant with a different psychiatric diagnosis (psychopathic label vs. other psychiatric label). Results show statistically significant or marginally significant (p < .10) summary effect sizes, albeit of different strengths, for the three punishment outcomes studied (legal sentence/sanction: d = 0.17; dangerousness: d = 0.58; and treatment amenability: d = -0.30) for studies comparing a psychopathic label versus no label. Conversely, all summary effects sizes for the three punishment outcomes in studies comparing a psychopathic label versus other psychiatric label were both weak and nonsignificant (legal sentence/sanction: d = 0.09; dangerousness: d = 0.14; and treatment amenability: d = 0.02). This suggests a significant general labeling effect, but not a specific labeling effect, for psychopathy in these studies. Further, these results suggest that the lay public, but not those in the criminal justice system, may subscribe to both general and specific labeling effects for psychopathy when it comes to punishment. This has potential implications for jury sentencing in both capital and, in select states, noncapital cases. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).