In the eye of the (motivated) beholder

Towards a motivated cognition perspective on disorder perception

Authored by: Jonathan Jackson , Ben Bradford , Ian Brunton-Smith , Emily Gray

The Routledge International Handbook on Fear of Crime

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138120334
eBook ISBN: 9781315651781
Adobe ISBN:


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Neighbourhood disorder refers to those cues in the social and physical environment that signal first the erosion of shared commitments to dominant norms and values, and second the failure of community members and authorities to regulate behaviour in public space. Disorder is dependent on an individual defining his or her surroundings and a number of U.S. studies have examined factors related to disorder perceptions. Our goal in this chapter is to present the findings from two U.K. studies into the instrumental and relational nature of public judgements about what characterises disorder. We frame our discussion in the context of psychological work on motivated social cognition - i.e. the ways in which various psychological needs, goals and desires (a) shape information processing and (b) lead to conclusions that individuals wish to reach rather than ones demanded by adherence to logic and/or evidence. We argue that disorder may not only be ‘in the eye of the beholder,’ it may also be ‘in the eye of the motivated beholder.’

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