Previous literature found empirical evidence to the scope-severity paradox (SSP), corresponding to situations where the perceived harm of a wrongdoing or crime decreases with the number of victims. We examine this phenomenon for the perpetrators’ side. Using a survey experiment, we examine whether increasing the number of perpetrators of a crime, namely a fraud, decreases its perceived severity (and subsequent punishment) at the individual level. Two scenarios are examined corresponding to two kinds of fraud: a fraud committed by a financial adviser against his/her own employer (scenario 1) and a tax evasion by an executive (scenario 2). Overall, our results do not offer a clear-cut support for the scope-severity paradox for the perpetrators’ side, even if some secondary results can be indicative of a possible SSP in some circumstances. More precisely, in the case of a financial fraud, the stated severity increases when the number of perpetrators is low. We discuss the implications of our results and raise important issues for future research.
Is a ‘bad individual’ more condemnable than several ‘bad individuals’? Examining the scope-severity paradox
22 January 2020