Discerning unfairness where others may not: Low self-control and unfair sanction perceptions

Alex R. Piquero, Zenta Gomez-Smith, Lynn Langton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)


Criminologists have long recognized that whether one perceives a sanction as fair or unfair influences the deterrent success of sanctions and the legitimacy afforded to legal authority. Unfortunately, although several scholars have claimed that individual characteristics influence how sanctions are interpreted, very little research has explored the individual factors that influence how one perceives sanctions to be fair/unfair. In this study, we take Gottfredson and Hirschi's notion of self-control and use it to explain, in part, whether an individual perceives a sanction as fair/unfair. We also examine how sanction perceptions and low self-control influence the perceived anger that may result from being singled out for sanctioning and whether self-control conditions the relationship between perceptions and anger. Our results suggest that individuals with low self-control are more likely to perceive sanctions as unfair, that unfair sanctions and low self-control lead to perceived anger for being singled out for punishment and that self-control conditions the effect of unfair sanction perceptions on perceived anger. Future directions are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-733
Number of pages35
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Defiance
  • Deterrence
  • Sanctions
  • Self-control

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