Perceived deservingness of procedurally (un)just treatment: experimental evidence of minority perceptions of vicarious police-citizen interactions

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Williamson, Harley
Murphy, Kristina
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How police and citizens behave during encounters can influence public perceptions of the deservingness of treatment citizens receive from police. Yet perceiving another citizen as deserving of police treatment may be explained by other factors. This study tests if minority observers’ identity with police and identity with the citizen in the encounter conditions how they judge that citizen’s deservingness of procedurally just or unjust treatment from police utilizing survey data with an embedded vignette experiment collected from 502 Muslim participants. The sample was split by the exhibited behavior of the police officer (as either procedurally just or unjust) to assess the effect of citizen behavior (either respectful or disrespectful) and identity processes on deservingness judgments. Findings show that the citizen in the encounter was perceived as less deserving of the treatment received when the police officer was procedurally unjust, particularly when the citizen acted respectfully. Additionally, identity with police shaped participants’ deservingness judgments, while identification with the citizen in the encounter did not. Importantly, identification with police moderated the relationship between citizen behavior and deservingness evaluations, but only for participants in the procedurally unjust police behavior condition. Implications for understanding minorities’ deservingness judgments in vicarious police-citizen encounters are discussed.

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Psychology, Crime & Law

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© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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Crime and social justice


Applied and developmental psychology

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Williamson, H; Murphy, K, Perceived deservingness of procedurally (un)just treatment: experimental evidence of minority perceptions of vicarious police-citizen interactions, Psychology, Crime & Law, 2023