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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Report on Joint SPSSI-EASP Meeting: Understanding Hate Crimes: Multidisciplinary Analyses

17.08.2016, by Sibylle Classen in meeting report

July 11-13, 2016, University of Connecticut, Storrs, USA; Organisers: Rupert Brown and Mark Walters (University of Sussex), Blair T. Johnson and Megan O. Iacocca (University of Connecticut)


Thanks to the generosity of SPSSI and EASP (and other funders, as noted below) a successful Small Group Meeting was held in July of this year on the topic of hate crime. Twenty-five people from seven different countries participated. The group comprised colleagues from a wide range of disciplines (Criminology, Law, Political Science, Psychology, Social Work) and included sixteen established hate crime researchers, eight postgraduate students and one senior policy advisor from the UK’s Department of Justice. Consistent with the long tradition of small group meetings sponsored by SPSSI and EASP, the presentations and ensuing discussion were somewhat longer than at most conventional conferences (35 minutes per slot) and there were ample opportunities for further debate during the meal breaks and social events.

Day 1

The meeting began with Don Green (Columbia) identifying the main methodological challenges faced by hate crime researchers, emphasising the need for experiments and quasi-experiments in field settings and unobtrusive measurement. Then followed Anna Stefaniak (Warsaw) who presented an analysis of a data base of hate crimes recorded in Poland over a 27 year period, using multi-level analysis. Barbara Perry (Ontario) then argued a case for internationalising the study of hate crime beyond its current geographical focus on North America and Western Europe. Sabine Preuẞ (Koblenz-Landau) presented some experimental research based on interventions aiming to improve attitudes towards Lesbians and Gay men. Mark Hatzenbuehler (Columbia), using geospatial analyses, showed how adverse health outcomes among sexual minority adolescents were more common in neighbourhoods with higher prevalence of hate crimes targeting the LGBT community. Megan Iacocca and Blair Johnson (Connecticut) also adopted a geographical approach to show how the severity of hate crime incidents is related to neighbourhood measures of social inequality and prejudiced attitudes. Lina Saud (Princeton) analysed Americans’ stereotypes of Muslims in terms of Fiske’s stereotype content model and linked these to understanding Islamophobic hate crime. Chris Crandall (Kansas) presented a programme of experimental work which explored the use of ‘freedom of speech’ as a justification for hate speech.

Day 2

The second day began with three papers using a socio-legal approach to the analysis of hate speech. Richard Wilson (Connecticut) presented a legal analysis of the complexities involved in trying to prosecute people in international courts for inciting others to commit genocide or crimes against humanity by using various forms of hate speech. This was followed by Richard Weiner (Nebraska) who spoke of his programme of experimental work examining the tension between ‘free speech’ (1st Amendment to the US Constitution) and ‘equal protection’ (14th Amendment), using a prospect theory analysis in terms of gain or loss framing. Vera Pejchal (Geneva) analysed the different ways in which the European Court on Human Rights had adjudicated on politicians’ use of xenophobic and racist discourse. Then followed two papers investigating attributes of hate crime perpetrators. Ed Dunbar (Los Angeles) spoke about his work analysing police crime reports to understand different kinds of perpetrator motivation. Desireé Crèvecoeur-MacPhail (Los Angeles) reported a similar analysis to identify common socio-demographic profiles of hate perpetrators. In the afternoon session, the focus shifted to victims of hate crimes. Rupert Brown and Mark Walters (Sussex) reported the first results from their research on indirect impacts of hate crime on the LGBT and Muslim communities in the UK, showing how hate crime has emotional and behavioural effects on the victims’ communities, and not only on the victims themselves. Michael Fingerle (Frankfurt) presented results from a survey of hate crime victims in Germany, investigating the experiences of hate crime of a wide range of victims (e.g., sexual orientation, disability, youth subcultures). Jane Gauthier (California State) continued this theme of the victim experience, using a qualitative approach to examine how Transgender people experience and cope with hate crime directed at their community. Finally, Amanda Davies-Rubio (Autónoma de Madrid) presented some most unusual research, reporting on her qualitative research with former members of the self-defence and guerrilla forces in Columbia who had engaged in violence and killings over a number of years.

Day 3

Megan Berthold (Connecticut) and Adeyinka Akinsulure-Smith (City College, NY) reported on their clinical work with asylum-seekers and refugees in the US who had escaped from torture in their former countries only to face hate crime in their new country of asylum. Ella Ben Hagai (Santa Cruz) reported on her experimental work investigating the effects of framing sexuality as innate or fluid on the tolerance for hate crimes against Gay and Lesbian people. Victoria Thomas (University of Washington) presented an analysis of media reports of murders of trans* and Black trans* people, showing how the language used in these reports might contribute to the disproportionate rates of violence against those groups. The final session was given over to policy implications of hate crime research. Paul Giannasi (UK, Department of Justice) gave a paper on the challenges faced by the police and the criminal justice system in tackling hate crime on the internet. Despite these challenges, he gave several examples of how social media can be exploited by the police to combat hate crime and build community resilience to it. Jack Dovidio (Yale) concluded the conference by identifying several important new directions and synergies for hate crime researcher and policy-makers.


Beyond the initial award from SPSSI and EASP, we also received generous contributions from divisions within the University of Connecticut (Office of the Vice-President for Research, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Humanities Institute, and Human Rights Institute); there also was a contribution from Elsevier Publishers. About 33% of the amounts contributed by SPSSI and EASP went toward housing subsidies for attendees and presenters; the remainder (about 67%) went into catering. Contributions from other funders supported materials, beverages, and other incidental costs; importantly, these made it possible for us to give travel awards to needy presenters.

We are thankful for this rich support of our meeting that made the event a pleasure for attendees and those hosting the meeting.

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