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Framing and perceptions of stalking: the influence of conduct severity and the perpetrator–target relationship

Adrian J. Scott, Nikki Rajakaruna & Lorraine Sheridan.
Psychology, Crime & Law; Volume 20, Issue 3, 2014, pages 242-260.

Abstract
Research has demonstrated that the way in which questions are presented (i.e. framed) has the capacity to influence responses to subsequent questions. In the context of stalking, perception research has often been framed in terms of whether or not particular behaviours constitute stalking. The current research investigates whether the framing of the opening question (question frame), conduct severity and the perpetrator–target relationship influence perceptions of stalking. Two studies employed experimental 3×3 independent factorial designs: one to examine question frame and conduct severity, the other to examine question frame and the perpetrator–target relationship. Participants in both studies (total N=449) were presented with vignettes and asked to answer six questions relating to the behaviour described. Question frame was found to impact on the classification of behaviour, with a greater proportion of participants indicating that the behaviour represented harassment or stalking rather than an illegal act. Consistent with previous research, conduct severity and the perpetrator–target relationship influenced perceptions of stalking. However, there was no evidence to suggest that the framing of the opening question influenced these perceptions. The implications of these findings for previous perception research are discussed.

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