Can blaming victims of rape be logical? Attribution theory and discourse analytic perspectives

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Abstract

While it is frequently assumed that blaming the victims rather than the perpetrators of rape is the result of biases in causal reasoning, one rape perception study (Calhoun et al., 1976) suggests that blame attributions directed at the victim can occur as a result of logical attributional processes through the systematic and rational application of the covariational rules of inductive reasoning. The aim of the present study was to investigate this assertion. The study is unique in two ways. First, participants were asked to discuss a rape incident rather than evaluate it using questionnaire methods. Second, the study focused on the rape of males as well as the rape of females. Two analyses were performed on the conversational data - a content analysis yielding quantitative data and a qualitative discourse analysis. The main findings were that, contrary to predictions, participants did not use the covariation information to blame the victim of rape ’logically’. Instead, the most frequently utilized category was ’metacommentary’ which showed that the participants were extremely sensitive to the inferences implied by the covariation information and the task in general. The findings are discussed in relation to attribution theory and rape perception.

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Anderson, I., Beattie, G., & Spencer, C. (2001). Can blaming victims of rape be logical? Attribution theory and discourse analytic perspectives. Human Relations, 54(4), 445–467. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726701544003

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