Race, Mental Illness, and School Shootings

The Virginia Tech and Columbine High shootings are 2 of the deadliest school massacres in the United States. A study in the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology investigates in a nationally representative sample how White Americans’ causal attributions of these shooting moderate their attitudes toward the shooter’s race. White Americans shown a vignette based on the Virginia Tech shooting were more likely to espouse negative beliefs about Korean American men and distance themselves from this group the more they believed that the shooter’s race caused the shooting. Among those who were shown a vignette based on the Columbine High shooting, believing that mental illness caused the shooting was associated with weaker negative beliefs about White American men. White Americans in a third condition who were given the Virginia Tech vignette and prompted to subtype the shooter according to his race were less likely to possess negative beliefs about Korean American men the more they believed that mental illness caused the shooting. There was no evidence for the ultimate attribution error. Theoretical accounts based on the stereotype and in-group-out-group bias literature are presented. The current findings have important implications for media depictions of minority group behavior and intergroup relations.

For the abstract


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