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Conclusions About People Playing the Role of Executioners

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People enacting the role as Executioners make up the smallest share of people in the Death Penalty Study. At 18%, they show consistencies between what they believe and what they say they would do (intended actions).

More than other people in the study, Executioners reported the highest levels of agreement with measures of vicarious and actual sadism. That is to say, actual sadism—intentionally hurting another person or animal—exerts a large effect size on becoming an Executioner. Also, vicarious sadism—taking pleasure in watching others hurt others—also exerts a large effect size on becoming an Executioner.


By a large margin, Executioners showed much higher approval of particularly bloody, violent, and painful methods of execution. These included the electric chair and the gas chamber, hanging, firearms, beheading, and stoning.

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