Do people perceive juvenile sex offenders who are gay and Christian as hypocrites? The effects of shared and dual identity defendants

Rachel Altholz, Jessica Salerno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate how a criminal offender’s dual social identity affects judgments. Drawing from similarity-leniency and black sheep theories, the authors tested and discuss whether these effects could be explained by legal decision makers’ perceptions of hypocrisy or shared identity with the defendant. Design/methodology/approach: The authors recruited 256 Christian and non-Christian adults to read a vignette about a juvenile sex offender who was either Christian or non-Christian, and heterosexual or gay. The authors measured participants’ punitiveness toward the offender. Findings: Results revealed that legal decision makers were more punitive when they were Christian compared to non-Christian, and the defendant was gay compared to heterosexual. Further, legal decision makers perceived themselves as more similar to the defendant when they were non-Christian compared to Christian, and the defendant was heterosexual compared to gay. Finally, only when the defendant was Christian, legal decision makers perceived him as more hypocritical when he was gay compared to heterosexual. Originality/value: This is the first study to investigate whether gay defendants might be particularly discriminated against if they are also Christian. It is also the first to test the black sheep and similarity-leniency theories in the legal context of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Christian defendants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-237
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Discrimination
  • Dual identity
  • Legal judgments
  • Punishment
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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