Racism Predicts White Individuals' Tolerance for Wrongful Conviction
Slane, Crystal, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Trawalter, Sophie, Psychology, University of Virginia
Previous research indicates that wrongful convictions disproportionately affect Black people. In this dissertation, I investigate whether racism and the desire for hierarchy motivate White individuals’ level of acceptance of wrongful convictions. I tested the following four predictions: Hypothesis 1: White individuals with higher levels of racism will be more tolerant of wrongful convictions in society than those with lower levels of racism. Hypothesis 2: White participants will be more tolerant of wrongful convictions when they primarily affect Black people vs. White people. Hypothesis 3: White participants—especially those with higher levels of racism—will be more tolerant of wrongful convictions when they primarily affect Black people vs. White people. Hypothesis 4: White participants will be more tolerant of wrongful convictions, especially under group status threat; that is, conditions under which the racial hierarchy and White people’s position in it are challenged. Results across Studies 1–4 find that level of racism is predictive of White individuals’ level of acceptance for wrongful convictions in society. The results of Study 4 found partial support for hypothesis 3; participants who had higher levels of racism had greater tolerance for wrongful convictions than individuals with lower levels of racism, and the difference between participants with higher vs. lower levels of racism was greater when they were told that wrongful convictions disproportionately affect Black people as compared to affect anyone. The results were consistent with hypothesis 3 but not hypothesis 2, indicating that more nuanced hypotheses which take into account level of racism are important. The group threat manipulation in Study 5, which investigated hypothesis 4, was not strong enough to produce an effect; an updated manipulation will be used in future studies to investigate this relationship further. In sum, the present work offers some initial evidence that White people—especially those higher in racism—are tolerant of wrongful conviction in racially motivated ways.
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Wrongful Conviction, Racism
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