Karin van Wingerde

This week’s blog offers some ‘light’ reading: two cartoons about deterrence, one of my research topics (Van Wingerde, 2015; Van Wingerde, 2016).

In its most basic terms, deterrence assumes that only the fear of tough legal penalties that exceed the benefits of rule violation will motivate people to comply with the law. Important factors influencing the decision to comply or violate are the risk of detection, the certainty of punishment, and the severity of the punishment. Deterrence has often been described as a means of communication (Zimring & Hawkins, 1973; Geerken & Gove, 1975): it is assumed that each sanction sends a threat message that communicates the potential risks and costs if people violate the law. However, besides a threatening message, penalties may also send a more normative and moral message about right and wrong, creating discussion about the offence and providing guidance about appropriate behaviour (Van Erp, 2011). The two cartoons below, represent these two types of messages and show how deterrence is supposed to work and how it often actually works. Enjoy!

The two cartoons show how deterrence is supposed to work and how it often actually works.


How deterrence is supposed to work…

Retrieved from: poplicks


…and how it often actually ‘works’

Retrieved from: tasmaniantimes

Of course, these cartoons portray very different types of crime. Whether deterrence ‘works’, and to what extent, strongly depends on the type of crime involved. In future posts, I will write about the deterrent impact of penalties on compliance behaviour and I will focus attention to its effects on different types of crime. Nevertheless, I am very much interested in how you think about the deterrent impact of sanctions. What works? What doesn’t? Why? What sanctions do you find effective for what type of crimes and under what conditions? Let me know by commenting on this blog!