Collyer, Charles [faculty advisor, Department of Psychology]




violence sensitivity, violent behavior, definitions of violence, rating violent behaviors, University of Rhode Island, honors


Every person views the world through a different lens, and one can never fully understand the motivations and opinions of someone else. However, experiments and statistics can shed some light onto people’s thought patterns and behaviors. When horrific acts of violence occur, many people strive to understand why they happen. Through my study I hope to help solve some of the mysteries behind the different ways people interpret violence. I want to see why some people tend to be more sensitive to violence and why some are more tolerant of violence. I am doing this by building on previous research conducted by Professor Collyer and his colleagues. In their previous studies they analyzed ratings of the severity of various violent acts ranging from life-threatening acts to verbal insults. They found that there are four clusters of violent acts: life threatening acts, low severity physical, high severity nonphysical, and low severity nonphysical. All the participants rated life threatening violence at the same level of severity, but then ratings split into two groups which can be described as: violence sensitive and violence tolerant. The violence-sensitive group had higher ratings of severity for the remaining three clusters of violence than the violence-tolerant group. I have designed a questionnaire which combines the quantitative approach to studying participants used by Professor Collyer, and am taking a qualitative approach by examining the reasons why participants rate these acts of violence with higher ratings or lower ratings. The participants in my study are a group of URI students in a large, introductory psychology course, chosen so as to include a wide variety of students. I am comparing the ratings participants choose for the clusters of violence with their answers to a number of questions about their personal definitions of violence and their attitudes toward crime and punishment. Participants will not only be placed into a group based on their ratings, but will also be asked to identify themselves as either violence-sensitive or violence-tolerant.

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