Issues in Measuring Morality Beliefs for Predicting Attitudes Towards Sex Offenders

Miss Shannon Muir1, Associate Professor  Lynne Roberts1

1Curtin University, Bentley, Australia

People are said to believe the attributes of others to be either fixed (entity beliefs) or malleable (incremental beliefs). Contemporary research has demonstrated that these implicit beliefs are a useful predictor of attitudes towards sex offenders, in that entity beliefs are related to more negative attitudes than incremental beliefs. The current cross-sectional, correlational study examined whether categorical or continuous measures of morality beliefs better predict attitudes towards sex offenders, and whether participant gender moderates this relationship. Data were obtained from an online self-report questionnaire completed by a convenience sample of 855 adults (737 females, 106 males, 7 other, and 5 unspecified) between 18 and 72 years of age (M = 33.27, SD = 10.56). Confirmatory factor analysis supported a two-factor structure (entity and incremental) of morality beliefs, and a comparison of two multiple regression analyses indicated that morality belief scores derived from continuous scoring (ƒ²= .28, p < .001) accounted for significantly more variance than their categorical counterparts (ƒ²= .16, p < .001) in predicting attitudes towards sex offenders. However, gender did not significantly moderate the relationship between incremental or entity beliefs and attitudes towards sex offenders. These findings provide empirical support for the use of continuous over categorical measures when capturing implicit beliefs, affording clear future measurement guidance. It also provides insight into the possibly limited role gender plays in predicting these attitudes, and may be useful to the development of attitudinal change relating to societal perceptions of sex offenders in future.


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