The Effects of Mortality Salience and Awareness of Outgroup Victimization on Perceptions of Hate Crimes

Joel D. Lieberman, University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Jamie Arndt, University of Missouri - Columbia
Michele Nard, University of Nevada - Las Vegas

ABSTRACT
Previous Terror Management Theory (TMT) research has indicated that mortality salience creates a need for individuals to develop, maintain and defend subjective cultural worldviews. As a result, mortality salient (MS) participants typically react negatively to individuals who espouse alternative worldview beliefs (worldview violators), and may exhibit behaviors toward those targets ranging from verbal derogation to physical aggression. In addition, MS has been shown to produce more punitive reactions to law breakers. Recent research has applied TMT to the topic of hate crimes and found that MS produces a desire for stronger punishment of hate crime offenders when hate crimes are described in abstract terms and targeted groups are not specified. However, MS has also been shown to lead to more lenient treatment of hate crime offenders when they attack victims who threaten a perceiver's worldview. This study extends those findings by examining the effects of awareness of prior hate crime group victimization on reactions to hate crime offenders. The results indicate that, under control conditions, awareness of outgroup victimization leads participants to recommend harsher punishment for hate crime offenders. However, when individuals have been made MS, knowledge of prior oppression leads to more lenient treatement of hate crime offenders.

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Updated 05/20/2006