Date of Award

Spring 6-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department/Program

Forensic Psychology

Language

English

First Advisor

Mark Fondacaro

Second Reader

Elizabeth Jeglic

Third Advisor

Amy Sarika Persaud

Abstract

Individuals who have been sex trafficked are continuously being targeted for prostitution and other related offenses instead of being recognized for their victimization. This may occur due to a fundamental lack of understanding of the sex-trafficked experience, allowing for misperceptions to form unhindered. Individuals with these misperceptions then go on to form laws and services intended to aid victims, but instead leave them vulnerable and criminalized. This study assessed whether an educational intervention on the experience of a sex-trafficked individual could influence public perceptions of free will doubt and criminal culpability. This study used a nonequivalent groups posttest-only design to administer an article on the sex trafficking experience, including the trauma and coercion a victim faces, or a neutral article on optical illusions, to then assess sex trafficking knowledge, free will doubt, and culpability beliefs. Participants (N= 445) were recruited from the general public through Amazon Mechanical Turk and were reimbursed for their involvement. Results showed no difference between the scores of the individuals exposed to the experimental or neutral intervention on both sex trafficking knowledge and culpability beliefs. However, significant results were found in the sex trafficking intervention group with members showing scores of more free will doubt. A mediation analysis also showed significant indirect effects of the experimental intervention on culpability beliefs through free will doubt.

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