Language and behaviour:pragmatics and parole

Crimmins, Melissa (2019) Language and behaviour:pragmatics and parole. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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This thesis applies linguistic analysis to one of the most difficult and under-theorised problems in criminology: recidivism on parole (Weisberg, Mukamal, & Segall, 2011, p. 3). During the parole hearing, inmates’ suitability for early release is judged according to parole board members’ intuitions and impressions, not evidence-based -- or even consistent -- criteria. The forensic linguistic approach of this study examines the same inmate statements considered by parole board members, but draws quantitative speech data from these, combining cutting-edge linguistic research with sophisticated data modelling to determine whether inmates exhibiting differentiated parole outcomes (i.e., recidivism or non-recidivism) also exhibit differentiated structural linguistic choices in the parole hearing.This study is inspired by the text analysis efforts of historic criminological and social cognitive research, contemporary psychological studies, and burgeoning interdisciplinary explorations toward connections between language and behaviour. It innovates by assessing pragmatic dimensions of language in naturally-occurring, high-stakes data, and is able to go further as a result. 182 successful parole hearings for violent criminals (i.e., murder, rape and sexual assault, and/or robbery) in four American states were transcribed and coded to form a parole hearing corpus of 750,000 words. Over thirty linguistic features, identified from criminological, social-cognitive, and psychological theories of violence, were operationalised for a thorough corpus analysis. The most significant linguistic features (p < 0.05) were included in a multiple logistic regression model alongside variables commonly used by criminologists, to ensure potentially significant and interfering factors were judged together, preventing bias or omission which could otherwise invalidate results -- a serious Type I error which commonly compromises linguistic research.The result is the first evidence-based linguistic assessment of interactions between criminal recidivism and language behaviours. The findings suggest significantly greater accuracy towards parole outcome (76%) than predictive measures currently in use. Theoretically, they provide new contours to the understanding of language and behaviour. In practical terms, they indicate that evaluating linguistic choices toward potential re-offense and behavioural outcome may be justified, while affirming the importance of evidence-based grounding for those judgments (Latessa & Lovins, 2010).

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
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26 Feb 2019 16:35
Last Modified:
18 Sep 2023 02:19