Identifying stalking: The relevance of intent in commonsense reasoning

  • Dennison S
  • Thomson D
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One method of distinguishing stalking from law-abiding behavior is to determine whether the accused intended to cause fear or harm to the target. However, this distinction may not capture community concerns regarding intrusive or harassing behavior. The present research examines the effect of intent, persistence, relationship, and consequences on community perceptions of stalking. Responses of 1,080 members of the community to a series of scenarios indicated that the presence of explicit evidence of intent was not the only way stalking behavior was identified. Behavior was also identified as stalking as a greater degree of persistence was depicted. Females more often than males perceived the behavior as stalking and inferred intent to cause fear or harm. Most participants who identified the behavior as stalking also indicated that it should be illegal. These results may assist in guiding ongoing debates over appropriate stalking legislation and strategies to reduce the incidence of stalking, as well as indicating whether education regarding stalking laws is required.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Commonsense justice
  • Intent
  • Legislation
  • Public perceptions
  • Stalking

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  • Susan M. Dennison

  • Donald M. Thomson

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