After Mathew Sheppard

Recent state and federal legislation such as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) addresses hate crime prevention and punishment. Two pivotal questions that arise in the development of such legislation are (a) should hate crime perpetrators be subject to penalty enhancements? and (b) should protections be extended to sexual and transgender minority individuals? An article published recently in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law presents two studies addressing these questions employing a two-step vignette methodology. Jury-eligible community members provided sentencing and blame attribution ratings for one of three hate crime scenarios (i.e., anti-African American, antigay, or antitransgender), as well as penalty enhancement agreement (i.e., yes/no) and measures of need for affect (Study 1) and need for cognition (Study 2). Patterns of findings across studies suggest that participants comply with hate crime legislation instructions in general, but sentencing decisions are consistently moderated by whether a participant agrees with the penalty enhancement aspect of hate crime legislation. Moreover, need for affect and need for cognition differentially impact perceptions of hate crimes; need for affect demonstrated predictive associations with victim blame, whereas need for cognition moderated relations with perpetrator sentence and blame judgments. Results are discussed with emphasis on the state of federal hate crime legislation, antigay and antitransgender prejudice, and future directions in research and policy.

For the abstract.


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