Honors Theses


Melissa Berry



Publication Date

Spring 4-2015

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Perhaps due to media attention, especially to recent high-profile cases, awareness of hate crime laws has increased. When people think of the groups protected by such legislation, factors such as race/ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation often come to mind. People victimized because of their affiliation with any designated group should be protected under these laws and perpetrators of such crimes should receive enhanced penalties. More specifically, the Hate Crime Protection Act (2009) made it a federal offense to assault someone because of sexual orientation. Relatively little research has been conducted on hate crime legislation, but it is important to understand because differences in jurors’ perceptions, and discrepancies between their personal views and the written law can determine the outcome of a case. The current study was an investigation of perceptions of what constitutes a hate crime, and whether people are consistent in their judgments of comparable cases. The objectives of the current study were to determine what is deemed a hate crime as a function of the minority/majority status of the victim and the perpetrator, and to determine whether victim and perpetrator status influence perceptions of the seriousness and offensiveness of the behavior, as well as how worthy of punishment it was. Participants read and responded to brief scenarios describing offenses committed by majority or minority group members against others (majority or minority group members). Although support for the hypothesis was not found, interesting patterns emerged with respect to gender differences.

Permission Statement

This item is protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code) and may only be used for noncommercial, educational, and scholarly purposes.


Undergraduate research


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Psychology Commons