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How to make anti-knife campaigns more effective

13 June 2017

Campaigns to persuade young men against carrying knives should concentrate on the dangers of serious and permanent injury rather than the risk of death or imprisonment.

That is the conclusion of research being presented today to the annual conference of our Division of Forensic Psychology by Dr Marek Palasinski from Liverpool John Moores University.

In his research, Dr Palasinski carried out four studies. Study 1, with a sample of 155 men, identified the beliefs and attitudes that are associated with the tolerance of knife carrying. 

Its results showed the correlations between physical defence ability, limited trust in authority, limited control over one's status and the need for respect, and how they predict aggressive masculinity that in turn is associated with the tolerance of knife carrying. In Study 2, a sample of 200 men examined the persuasiveness of various existing anti-knife slogan, showing that a slogan about injury was seen as more persuasive than those related to death and control.

In study 3, a sample 169 men rated the persuasiveness, and believability of eight popular anti-knife posters, showing that the image of a fresh injury was seen as most persuasive, emotional and believable. In study 4, a sample of 151 men rated five computer-generated images of various types of injury, showing that it was the eye injury that was seen as most persuasive, emotional and believable.

Dr Palasinski says: 

“Current anti-knife campaigns often associate knife carrying with immaturity, deviance or pathology. They also threaten young men with the risk of death or imprisonment.

Our results suggest that to make them more effective they should be re-evaluated and focused more on the possibility of a graphic and permanent injury."

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