Near-Miss Deterrence: Incorporating Near-Miss Effects into Deterrence Theory
41 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 9, 2021
We investigate the applications of near-miss effects to theories of effective deterrence. Classical deterrence theory specifies two types of criminal deterrence: general deterrence, in which potential criminals are deterred from offending by the threat of punishment, and specific deterrence, in which criminals who have already offended are deterred from re-offending by experiences with punishment. In this paper, we introduce a novel category of deterrence–Near Miss Deterrence–that falls between general and specific deterrence. Under near-miss deterrence, transgressors do not experience punishment directly, but rather feel a sense of subjective closeness to an avoided punishment and adjust their behavior accordingly. Across two experimental studies (N = 2,049), we study how individuals behave after getting away with a first instance of cheating, and demonstrate the deterrent effects of near misses. We show that participants who cheat and experience subsequent "close calls" with punishment reduce their cheating in levels comparable to cheaters who are punished. By contrast, participants who avoid punishment by wider margins do not decrease their cheating. We do not find evidence that this effect is driven by transient shifts in affect. These results have important implications for theories of deterrence and for policy.
Note: The first two authors contributed equally to this work
Keywords: Deterrence, Ethics, Cheating, Risk-Taking
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