UBC Undergraduate Research

Examining Guilt and Blame Attribution for Offence: Comparing a Public and Forensic Psychiatric Sample Patricny, Nicol


Mentally ill individuals who have committed an offence arguably comprise one of the most stigmatized groups within our society. Study 1 examined the Canadian public’s perception of the degree to which individuals suffering from a mental illness experienced guilt, and felt blameworthy for their actions. Results suggested that the public underestimates the guilt felt by these individuals, which may contribute to the negative feelings some of the public has toward mentally disordered offenders. A second study explored forensic psychiatric patients’ feelings of guilt and blame surrounding their own offences. For patients without a comorbid personality disorder, a moderate negative correlation was found between mental blame and time elapsed since offence, implying that psychiatric hospital stay helps them gain a sense of personal responsibility for their offences. Further, patients with a comorbid personality disorder reported less guilt feelings for their offences than patients without a comorbid personality disorder, and were less likely to blame them on mental factors (i.e., mental illness or a lack of self-control), supporting the idea that there are additional therapeutic challenges and considerations for individuals that are suffering from more than one mental health diagnosis. Implications for both treatment and community policy will be considered in detail.

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