Document Type

Journal Article


Routledge Taylor & Francis Group


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Law and Justice / Sellenger Centre for Research in Law, Justice and Social Change




This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Psychology, Crime and Law on 15 Nov 2013 as: Scott, A. J., Gavin, J. , Sleath, E., & Sheridan, L. (2013). The attribution of responsibility in cases of stalking. Psychology, Crime and Law, 20(7), 705-721. Available online: here


There is a general belief that stranger stalkers present the greatest threat to the personal safety of victims, despite national victimisation surveys and applied research demonstrating that ex-partner stalkers are generally more persistent and violent. The just-world hypothesis offers a possible explanation for this apparent contradiction. The current research used nine hypothetical scenarios, administered to 328 university students, to investigate the assumptions that underlie attributions of responsibility in cases of stalking. It explores whether these assumptions are consistent with the proposed mechanisms of the just-world hypothesis, and whether they vary according to the nature of the perpetrator–victim relationship and conduct severity. Thematic analysis revealed that the victim was perceived to be more responsible for the situation when the perpetrator was portrayed as an ex-partner rather than a stranger or acquaintance. Furthermore, victims were perceived to be more responsible when the perpetrator’s behaviour was persistent and threatening. These findings are discussed in the context of the just-world hypothesis and related to the proposed mechanisms by which a person can reinterpret a situation so that the perceived injustice disappears.



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