Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Louisa Slowiaczek


Selective attention and justice sensitivity (JS), a personality trait reflecting individual differences in perceptions of injustice, have been shown to affect how people assign punishments. In the present study peoples’ decision-making processes were investigated to better understand the inconsistencies in legal punishment decisions, particularly when using retributive versus restorative justice. Subjects participated in three phases of the experiment. First, subjects completed a justice sensitivity scale and then rated the appropriateness of punishment options to handle a criminal scenario. Second, participants’ selective attention was indicated by their recall of pertinent features from three ambiguous criminal scenarios. Finally, participants were primed with either restorative justice or neutral control words, and rated the appropriateness of punishment options to handle a new criminal scenario. Results revealed no significant associations between JS and ratings of punishment options, although patterns suggested negative relationships between observer JS and retributive justice ratings, and victim JS and restorative justice ratings. Results did show a significant effect of JS in predicting the facts remembered, such that as observer JS increased, more restorative justice facts were recalled, and as victim JS increased, fewer restorative justice facts were recalled. No significant effect of the restorative justice prime was observed. These results may contribute to better understanding of criminal justice policy in the United States.