Executions & Sadism

Two Distinct But Connected Belief Systems

In the Death Penalty Study, researchers examined 8 opinions about how executions should be carried out. Specifically, researchers asked about conducting executions in public and the humane treatment of the condemned during executions. Using advanced statistics, researchers identified 2 'clusters' of opinions that make up 2 distinct but related belief systems about the death penalty.


Vicarious sadism is finding pleasure in witnessing somebody else hurt, injure, torture, or kill a third party. Actual sadism means finding personal enjoyment in directly hurting, injuring, torturing, or killing someone. Regarding vicarious sadism, 5 opinions make up this cluster. The 3 best measures of vicarious sadism are the opinions that there's nothing sick about televising live executions and, in fact, executions should be televised. people with high levels of vicarious sadism favor conducting executions in front of large crowds. The vicarious sadism index is the near opposite of the index for disdaining public executions. Those who disdain public executions feel that the act of executing someone out to be out of sight and out of mind. Those with high levels of vicarious sadism are reminiscent of the 10,00-15,000 people who turned out for the last public hanging in the U.S.


Actual sadism is reflected in 3 opinions that clustered together. The key to sadism is the view that those executed should be made to suffer. Simply killing the condemned is not sufficient. Related to that opinion is the view that there's nothing wrong if executions are sometimes painful. About 7% of executions by lethal injection are 'botched,' meaning that the condemned sometimes suffer long and painful deaths. However, for those with high scores on the actual sadism index, such suffering doesn't mean that the execution was 'botched.' Rather, there's no such thing as a 'botched' execution, as long as the condemned die. For a more detailed analysis of the statistics used to construct the two belief systems about sadism, click here.


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