Exploring Deterrence: The Theory, Types, and Key Components of Deterrence

Investigate the theory of deterrence, understand the differences between specific and general strategies, and explore the ways you can incorporate the components of severity, certainty, and celerity into your deterrence program.

LegalDictionary.net defines deterrence as “the act of discouraging people from engaging in wrongful behavior”. However, I prefer Dictionary.com’s definition, as it goes a bit further and defines deterrence as “the act of discouraging an action or event through instilling doubt or fear of the consequences”.Let’s take a closer look at the pieces of this last definition:

Discouraging an action or event

For our purposes in test security, the primary actions we seek to discourage are cheating (where one seeks to artificially inflate HIS/HER test score) and item theft (where one steals items so that OTHERS may have their test scores artificially inflated). While innumerable methods exist to attempt these actions, they fall into 12 “buckets” of test security threats for which deterrence may be implemented (see http://bit.ly/CaveonRiskAssessment).

Instilling Doubt

Per the definition, we want to “instill doubt”. This is a fundamental concept, as so much of the test security effort we extoll focuses on causing test takers to wonder, “can I really get away with this?” Video cameras, proctors, authentication, etc. have all been implemented to germinate those concerns in testers who might otherwise be tempted to break the rules.

Fear of the Consequences

Myriad, time-tested approaches have been implemented to thwart test fraud by fostering a “fear of the consequences”. Indeed, this aspect of deterrence has sparked deep consideration by philosophers and criminologists alike for nearly 400 years!
This last part of the definition falls under the field of deterrence theory. Proponents of deterrence theory believe that…


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