Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School


First Advisor

Rusty McIntyre, PhD

Second Advisor

Brian Sellers, PhD

Third Advisor

Natalie Dove, PhD


The purpose of this study was to investigate the differences in the attribution of contributing factors to criminal behaviors between psychology and criminology majors. To gauge participant perception, a carefully crafted vignette was presented to participants accompanied by questions asking participants to what extent eight variables (conformation to labels, hostile attribution bias, rational choice based on circumstances, poor attachments, mental illness, upbringing, insufficient deterrence, and learned behavior through observation) contributed to the perpetrator’s criminal behavior and for participants to rank-order these same variables from the largest contributors to the least. Participants were also asked to provide a sentencing recommendation for the perpetrator, their familiarity with the theories used, and for demographic information. Although it was hypothesized that students would rely on confirmation bias, most findings were not significant in demonstrating such bias. Instead, participants regardless of major favored specific theories. Poor attachments differed significantly from its fellow criminological factors while one’s upbringing differed from the other joint factor based in both criminology and psychology. Additionally, notable, but not significant preferences for psychology to explain criminal behaviors and rehabilitate an offender were observed. These findings may prompt further research into the extent of academic bias and its influence in different settings.