Keelah Williams

Scientific American published an essay titled How Capital Influences Attitudes toward Capital Punishment by Assistant Professor of Psychology Keelah Williams in which she explained, “When people think the economy is poor, support for the death penalty rise.” The Nov. 12 piece was based on research co-authored by Williams titled Capital and punishment: Resource scarcity increases endorsement of the death penalty published in Evolution and Human Behavior last summer.

“…our research suggests that feelings about the death penalty are not immutable,” Williams wrote.  “Rather, features of our broader environment—like whether the stock market is soaring or plunging—influence our psychology and incline us toward or away from different decisions and behaviors. With respect to capital punishment, believing that resources are scarce leads people to view the death penalty in a more favorable light.”

She wrote in conclusion, “The threat of another recession looms in the back of many Americans’ minds. And for jurors evaluating death-row defendants, their beliefs about capital punishment may, in fact, hinge on their perceptions of capital.”


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