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An experimental approach analyzing who sees disorder when there is nothing to see: understanding variance of perceptions via personal characteristics

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Knowing that disorder is related to crime, it has become essential for criminologists to understand how and why certain individuals perceive disorder. Using data from the Perceptions of Neighborhood Disorder

Knowing that disorder is related to crime, it has become essential for criminologists to understand how and why certain individuals perceive disorder. Using data from the Perceptions of Neighborhood Disorder and Interpersonal Conflict Project, this study uses a fixed photograph of a neighborhood, to assess whether individuals "see" disorder cues. A final sample size of n=815 respondents were asked to indicate if they saw particular disorder cues in the photograph. The results show that certain personal characteristics do predict whether an individual sees disorder. Because of the experimental design, results are a product of the individual's personal characteristics, not of the respondent's neighborhood. These findings suggest that the perception of disorder is not as clear cut as once thought. Future research should explore what about these personal characteristics foster the perception of disorder when it is not present, as well as, how to fight disorder in neighborhoods when perception plays such a substantial role.

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  • 2013