Rehabilitation and social behavior: Experiments in prison

Research Cluster

Speaker:Loukas Balafoutas, University of Innsbruck
Date: Monday 5 February 2018
Time: 10:30
Location: Syndicate room C, Building One

Further details

Abstract: Despite the large economic and social significance of crime reduction and criminals’ rehabilitation and re-integration, research evaluating the effects of incarceration on behavior is surprisingly scarce. We conduct an economic experiment with 105 prison inmates and complement it with administrative data in order to explore several aspects of their social behavior. We perform a comprehensive analysis of inmates’ behavior in simple economic games and compare it to a control sample. Additionally, our dataset allows us to use regression analysis to determine whether and how time spent in prison affects our measures of social behavior. Finally, our study introduces and evaluates a psychological priming method with the aim of activating a positive rehabilitation effect. Our results reveal substantial differences between the social behavior of inmates and the control group. Furthermore, inmates exhibit some degree of discrimination against the out-group and become less pro-social the longer they remain incarcerated. Our priming intervention reduces or eliminates discrimination by significantly increasing pro-sociality towards the out-group. These findings suggest that a simple, low-cost intervention based on encouraging prison inmates to reflect on their incarceration may have desirable effects in terms of promoting rehabilitation and a more successful integration into social and economic life after release from prison.