Time and Punishment: Exploring Individual Heterogeneity in Attitudes Toward the Future

Greg Pogarsky, University at Albany
Daniel S. Nagin, Carnegie Mellon University

Whether and how threatened future punishments deter criminal behavior remain key unresolved questions for scholars of crime. Research has shown that people vary widely in the degree to which future consequendes influence their behavior. This paper culls from the extant literature two alternative conceptions of this trait, which is often termed "present-orientation." The first conception posits that present-oriented individuals deliberatively devalue or discount future consequences. In contrast, the second conception suggests individuals are present-oriented largely because they have difficulty controlling impulses to act. This article develops behavioral indicators of each present-orientedness profile using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health. It then tests the extent to which each profile corresponds with involvement in criminal and anti-social behavior.

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Updated 05/20/2006