Feeling for and as a group member: understanding LGBT victimisation via group-based empathy and intergroup emotions

Jennifer Paterson, Rupert Brown, Mark Walters

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Being a victim of a hate crime can be devastating (e.g., Herek, Gillis, & Cogan, 1999; McDevitt, Balboni, Garcia, & Gu, 2001). Compared with victims of other types of crime, hate crime victims are more likely to report feeling vulnerable, fearful, anxious, angry, and depressed (Corcoran, Lader, & Smith, 2015; Herek et al., 1999) and also suffer for longer (McDevitt et al., 2001). However, the impacts of hate crimes are not limited to the people directly involved in the crime. Qualitative research suggests that hate crimes have indirect effects that “ripple” out throughout communities (Bell & Perry, 2015; Noelle, 2002; Perry & Alvi, 2012). These “waves of harm” (Iganski, 2001, p. 628) frequently lead to feelings of vulnerability, fear, anger, and sadness amongst other group members. They can also lead to behavioural changes including avoidance and withdrawal (Bell & Perry, 2015), yet can also have a mobilising effect that inspires collective action (Noelle, 2002). Since recorded hate crimes are on the rise both in the UK and elsewhere (O'Neill, 2017; see FBI, 2017 for US context), we provide a timely and original investigation into these indirect effects that are of considerable international concern and interest. In two experiments, we extend intergroup emotions theory (IET; Mackie, Maitner, & Smith, 2009) and uniquely apply it to the phenomenon of hate crime to show that hate crimes against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people provoke heightened emotional and behavioural reactions in fellow LGBT individuals compared to non-hate crimes. We provide quantitative evidence that these group-level responses are a product of individuals feeling threatened as a group member – as IET would predict. Importantly, we are the first to show that these indirect effects also stem from the fact that people share strong empathic ties with fellow ingroup members and so also feel for hate crime victims to a greater extent than for non-hate crime victims.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Early online date24 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jul 2018


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