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University of Gothenburg

Psychological aspects of victimology

Victims of crime play a central role in the judicial system, typically providing information critical to criminal investigations. Crime victims are also often particularly vulnerable, and, if met inappropriately by legal actors and the public, may experience a secondary victimization. In addition, previous research has repeatedly shown that crime victims’ nonverbal emotional expression affects their chances of being believed. A victim who behaves in an emotionally agitated manner is more often believed and is more likely to be considered a real victim than one who behaves in a neutral manner. That is, credibility judgments tend to be based on other factors than what the crime victim said but rather how he or she said it. Thus, our research focuses on factors that may influence people’s perceptions of victims’ credibility and blameworthiness, as well as attitudes and norms towards victims.

Areas of research

1. Social perception of crime victims

In this research area, we investigate factors that influence people’s attribution of blame to victims of rape and other crimes. We also study the publics’ attitudes towards victims of intimate partner violence (IPV). The aim is to develop instruments for measuring and influencing public norms and attitudes, and, by extension, to increase the propensity to act against IPV.

2. Crime victim credibility

This research focuses on how people assess the credibility of, and provides social support to, crime victims in legal and everyday settings. For instance, we examine why people tend to believe emotional victims to a greater extent than non-emotional victims; i.e. the emotional victim effect. We also investigate the robustness of the effect across different types of victims (men and women; children and adults) and different types of crimes (rape, assault, harassment).

  • Ask, K., & Landström, S. (2010). Why emotions matter: Expectancy violation and affective response mediate the emotional victim effect. Law and Human Behavior, 34, 392-401. doi: 10.1007/s10979-009-9208-6
  • Alfredsson, H., Ask, K., & von Borgstede, C. (2014). Motivational and cognitive predictors of the propensity to intervene against intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29, 1877-1893. doi: 10.1177/0886260513511696
  • Landström, S., Ask, K., Sommar C., & Willén, R. (in press). Children’s testimony and the emotional victim effect. Legal and Criminological Psychology. doi: 10.1111/lcrp.12036
  • Strömwall, L.A., Alfredsson, H., & Landström, S. (2013). Rape victim and perpetrator blame and the Just World hypothesis: The influence of victim gender and age. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 19, 207–217.
  • Wrede, O., Ask, K. & Strömwall, L. A. (in press). Sad and Exposed, Angry and Resilient? Effects of Crime Victim Emotional Expressions on Judgments of Vulnerability. Social Psychology.