Greg Pogarsky, Sean Patrick Roche, Justin T. Pickett*



The relevance of several cognitive heuristics and related biases for rational choice perspectives on crime, and for perceptions of sanction risk, were investigated. We present findings from a series of randomized experiments, embedded in two nationwide surveys of American adults (18 and older) in 2015 (N = 1,004 and 623). The results reveal that offender estimates of detection risk are less probabilistically precise and more situationally variable than under prevailing criminological perspectives, most notably, rational choice and Bayesian learning theories. This, in turn, allows various decision-making heuristics—such as anchoring and availability—to influence and potentially bias the perceptual updating process.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff