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The U.S. Department of Justice defines hate crime as “the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.” While the documentation and awareness of hate crimes is essential, we also need to understand the differences in the numbers we see reported on hate crimes, increases and decreases for specific types of hate crimes, and what those shifts in numbers actually mean. We often see comments about one kind of hate crime being more “important” than another due to a spike in frequency. Today’s article points out that it is likely unwise to arrange the badness of hate crimes in any sort of hierarchy. To modify an existing meme just a bit, “hate is hate”.

This is a fairly dry article but it contains useful information on the documentation of hate crimes and the limitations of the reporting used to give us those numbers. The writer starts out by telling us there are 4 general sources of information documenting the prevalence of hate crimes.

  1. Victim reports to community anti-violence organizations.
  2. Community surveys conducted with oversampling of sexual and gender minority respondents.
  3. Data from local law enforcement agencies compiled annually by the FBI.
  4. And, surveys conducted with national probability samples.

The author believes it is important to understand that hate crimes are under-reported and different things will be reported to different documenters. Each of these information sources may well report their data accurately, but none of them is believed to be completely accurate. Here are some of his history of the data collection process and cautionary tales on how to evaluate hate crimes data by being aware of the source:

When data is reported by community organizations and anti-violence projects

Numbers gathered by these groups will likely be higher than those reported by law enforcement since victims may feel safer reporting crimes to these groups. Additionally, they are looking for evidence not just of a crime, but of the reasons for it—not something that law enforcement necessarily finds as central to their duties.

Prior to 1990, data was collected somewhat haphazardly and with little consistency between what information was collected from community to community. This changed in 1990 when data collection was standardized so it could be compared year to year.

Since 1995, data for crimes has been reported by gender identity as well as sexual orientation. For 2015, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported 1,253 incidents of hate crime against sexual and gender minorities as well as those with HIV (data was from 13 local member organizations in 12 states).

In short, this data provides valuable information about victims, perpetrators and crimes in specific cities. It is likely to include crimes unreported to criminal justice authorities and thus missing from FBI data. They do not include data from people who are in prison, those in rural areas, those who keep sexual orientation or gender identity secret, and those who simply feel uncomfortable reporting victimization to a community agency.

When data is reported from survey studies from academics and community-based advocates

Reports from these agencies are seen as an important estimate of the number of hate crimes that have occurred in a particular city in a specific year. However, the numbers are seen as low estimates since not all such crimes are reported to the agencies responsible for creating the reports. Earlier survey studies used non-random samples (that is, people volunteered or were surveyed in large groups like schools or churches) and their generalizability is limited. Early studies also did not identify data based on transgender versus cisgender status. [Cisgender is also known as heterosexual but ‘cisgender’ is used in the literature on sexual identity.]

More recent surveys (again, these were not random samples) have shown that hate crimes occur in roughly one-fourth of transgender respondents up to about one-third of transgender respondents. In brief, this data documents the idea that hate crimes exist and allows examination of the demographic, social and psychological variables associated with victimization. Data quality varies widely and the prudent user needs to be aware of that reality.

When data is reported from FBI Hate Crimes Statistics 

This data began to be collected in 1990 with 4,755 hate crimes reported for 1990. In 2013, the FBI began to also track hate crimes based on gender identity. They reported few of these sorts of crimes for a national database although the number is steadily raising. In 2013, 31 gender identity crimes were reported. [Gender identity refers to whether you see yourself as male or female and not whether you were born as male or female. Typically, the term “gender identity crimes” means crimes that were committed against someone because they were trying to ‘pass’ as a different gender or were thought to be trying to ‘pass’.]

In 2014, 98 gender identity crimes were reported and in 2015, 114 gender identity crimes were reported. The author says this data is likely under-reporting the actual incidence of hate crimes since participation of local law enforcement agencies is entirely voluntary; in order to report them, the local agency has to recognize they are seeing a hate crime; and many people never report their victimization to the police.

In short, the FBI data is valuable in that it contains only those incidents that have been identified by local law enforcement authorities as meeting criteria for a hate crime. As mentioned above, this data is plagued by under-reporting and is known to offer a lower estimate of hate crimes occurring in any given year.

Population-Based Surveys with National Probability Samples

The advantage of these surveys is that (since they are probability samples aka large and randomly selected participants) they are generalizable but collecting this data is expensive. Most researchers use government-sponsored surveys with large samples—like the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), to take advantage of the larger populations of sexual and gender minority hate crime survivors already in the sample. Differences in how the FBI categorizes hate crimes versus how the NCVS categorizes hate crimes result in widely differing numbers and reflect how many victims never report the hate crimes to law enforcement.

For 2012, the NCVS estimate of nonfatal hate crime victimization was 293,800 (about 13% of these were based on the victim’s sexual orientation). The author provides some other survey data that show anywhere from 12% to 32% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender adults have been abused due to their sexual orientation. Since these surveys did not measure exactly the same things, the ability to compare their findings is limited.

In short, this data avoids the underreporting of hate crimes issue in the other databases but you will have to ensure they are based on very large samples (and the NCVS data will be).

The author urges users of hate crime data to be aware of the nature of the data source on which they rely and its accompanying strengths and limitations. From a litigation advocacy perspective, it is important to know the strengths and limitations of the various databases so that you can educate jurors on which numbers are the best estimate of actual occurrence as they consider your case. Like understanding the problems for Black men encountering police and law enforcement—jurors who are not personally aware of the prevalence of hate crimes will need to be educated on that reality.

The implications for criminal cases involving allegations of hate crimes is pretty clear. While Defense attorneys may emphasize FBI numbers and say the conduct was not one of these rare hate crimes but rather one of the unfortunate confrontations that are seen every day.

Prosecutors will want to embrace the NCVS data and stress the reluctance to report hate crime victimization. We are reminded of the old saying that when you hear hoofbeats, you should expect to see a horse, not a zebra. The question is in part one of whether hate crimes are rare or not.

The public resistance to the idea that we live in a society with high levels of bias and unfairness is a significant barrier to accepting hate crimes. Prosecutors should consider avoiding indictment of society by talking about how common hate crimes are, and focusing on the elements of conduct that are in the hate crimes statute. Most people don’t want to believe that this is an epidemic, but they are more readily willing to see malevolent conduct, and struggle to find an explanation that makes sense to them.

This Defense approach would likely also offer the argument that the victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Prosecutor can argue that this hate crimes are an epidemic and ask the jurors to send a message as to whether they want this criminal behavior condoned in their town. (Visit our Simple Jury Persuasion: Not in my town! post to see how this would work.)

Herek, GM 2017. Documenting hate crimes in the United States: Some considerations on data sources. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 4(2), 143-151.


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Women often think that “one day” they will garner the professional respect and standing that will stop men from interrupting them when the woman is speaking. Today we are presenting two studies of women who’ve reached heights in their professions which most women (and most men for that matter) will never achieve. Both studies tell us the fantasy of speaking without interruption is likely untrue.

Harassment of female “Space Scientists

Despite all the professed desire to increase the number of women in STEM fields, the working environment experienced by women scientists continues to be hostile. A recent survey of astronomers and planetary scientists asked whether they had been harassed either in school or at work. The survey (for those who like to know such things) was distributed online in early 2015. The researchers received responses from 474 planetary scientists and astronomers.

What is important to know here is that this was not a random sample. The authors report the sample was different from the entire field of space scientists in the following ways: the participants were earlier in their careers than would be a randomly selected sample, were more likely to be women or racial minorities, and were probably savvier about social media than the average space scientist. The researchers say the results are not generalizable to all space scientists but the results do answer (with a resounding yes) the question of whether there really is a problem.

The results were even worse than expected by the supervising professor. Here are a sample of the findings:

Female scientists were more likely than male scientists to report having heard racist or homophobic remarks and to have experienced both verbal and physical harassment (at work and at school) during the five most recent years.

Scientists who were ethnic or racial minority group members were more likely than white scientists to have heard racist and homophobic remarks and to have been harassed.

40% of scientists who were women of color said they had felt unsafe at work because of their gender.

Among female non-white scientists, 28% reported feeling unsafe because of their race.

White women (12%), women of color (18%) and one man of color (6% of his male of color cohort) reported having skipped at least one class, meeting or other professional event because they felt unsafe.

The authors of this paper (which is available on-line) make some recommendations for reducing this harassment. They suggest both schools and labs have diversity training as well as a code of conduct that is enforced. They suggest leaders in the field model “appropriate behavior” (unlike, for example, the example set by leading “planet finder”/space scientist and tenured professor Geoff Marcy who harassed women in his field for decades), and that the profession actually follow their written codes and sanction offenders quickly and fairly.

Surely women who are Supreme Court Justices are free of interruptions!

Nope. Not even. “There is no point at which a woman is high-status enough to avoid being interrupted”. The Harvard Business Review recently summarized the results of a new empirical study [available at SSRN] by Northwestern University researchers. The results mirror the results from the survey of space scientists. If you are a female or a minority (or both) and happen to be a Supreme Court Justice—prepare to be interrupted (and keep reading to see the strategies used by real Supreme Court Justices who are women to decrease the number of interruptions from men).

The HBR summary first tells us that Neil Gorsuch will fit in well at the current Supreme Court since he “repeatedly interrupted” liberal female senators during his Senate hearings. Then, they move on to summarize the new study (the result of reviewing transcripts from 15 years of Supreme Court oral arguments) which shows the following disheartening information:

As more women join the Supreme Court, male justices are increasing their interruptions of the women justices rather than decreasing them (as one might hope). As an example, in the last 12 years, women were 24% (on average) of the Supreme Court composition. During that time frame, 32% of the interruptions were of the female justices (by either their male colleagues or by the male advocates arguing cases). In comparison, only 4% of the interruptions came from the female justices. The researchers looked at transcripts all the way back to 1990 to see if the pattern of interrupting women was the same when there fewer female justices.

In 1990, Sandra Day O’Connor was the only female justice and 35.7% of all interruptions were directed at her.

In 2002, there were two female justices (O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and 45.3% of all interruptions were directed at them.

In 2015, there were three female justices (Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) and, maintaining the increasing frequency of interrupting female justices, 65.9% of all interruptions were of those three women.

In fact, in 2015, Sonia Sotomayor (the only woman of color on the bench) was the most common justice target for interruption by male advocates. (This despite the Supreme Court rule mandating advocates stop talking immediately when a justice begins speaking). The total number of interruptions by male advocates was 10% of the interruptions with 8% (of the 10%) directed at Justice Sotomayor.

Conservative justices are more likely to interrupt liberal justices (70% of the interruptions made by conservative justices) than to interrupt their conservative colleagues (30%).

“Junior” status on the bench also results in more interruptions (at a statistically significant level) from senior justices. However, the researchers say gender is about 30x more powerful a predictor of interruption than length of time on the bench. The researchers expect the introduction of Gorsuch as the most junior colleague will result in an intensification of the gender over seniority interruption relationship.

So if both male Supreme Court advocates and male Supreme Court Justices are increasing their interruptions of women justices, what does a woman do to make a difference? The women who are Supreme Court justices adapt, according to the researchers. They change their speech patterns to mirror those of the male justices. They are, again according to the researchers, less polite. Here’s how the researchers summarize it:

Early in their tenure, female justices tend to frame questions politely, using prefatory words such as “May I ask,” “Can I ask,” “Excuse me,” or the advocate’s name. This provides an opportunity for another justice to jump in before the speaker gets to the substance of her question.

We found that women gradually learn to set aside such politeness. All four of the female justices have reduced their tendency to use this polite phrasing. Justice Sotomayor adjusted within just a few months. Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg gradually became less and less polite over decades on the court, eventually using the polite phrases approximately one-third as much as they did initially. Justice Kagan is still learning: She uses polite language more than twice as often as the average man, although half as often as she did in 2010. We do not see a similar trend with the men, because male justices rarely use these polite speech patterns, even when they first enter the court. It is the women who adapt their speech patterns to match those of the men.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, the results of this study are instructive. Female litigators would perhaps do well to modify their speech patterns to mirror those of men. This raises the question that has dogged women in authority forever—conduct and speech which is acceptable and expected from men often results in women being viewed as emasculating or ‘bitchy’. There is a double standard, and ignoring it risks alienating jurors on the one hand, or getting run over by men on the other. Women litigators and female witnesses would do well to review our blog posts on traditionally feminine speech patterns and work to minimize their frequency.

The researchers also call upon the Chief Justice to intervene in the interruptions of women justices and we would say the same for senior partners at law firms. If women are interrupted, speak up and demonstrate an environment that is receptive to both female and male opinions. (It matters.)

Clancy, K. B. H., K. M. N. Lee,E. M. Rodgers, and C. Richey (2017). Double jeopardy in astronomy and planetary science: Women of color face greater risks of gendered and racial harassment, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. 122. Open access pdf at:


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We mentioned this scale last week in a combination post but decided it deserved a post of its own as with other scales we’ve featured here in the past. You are likely aware of the terms “driving while black” or “flying while brown” and this scale means to document that experience of discrimination and accompanying health impact. Despite a plethora of research on general stress and race-related stress—the researchers developing this scale say they “are not aware of any psychometric instruments that specifically focus on assessing Black men’s experiences with law enforcement discrimination”.

In order to develop a valid scale, the researchers did “exploratory qualitative interviews” with 90 Black men from three towns in the state of Georgia (in the US). From those interviews, the researchers developed 8 “distinct dimensions” of negative experience with the police:

being accused of drug-related behavior, being unfairly pulled over while driving, being unfairly stopped and searched, being assumed a thief, experiencing verbal abuse, experiencing physical abuse, unfair treatment associated with attire, and being unfairly arrested.

Their next step was to develop scale items (i.e., questions) based in the 8 dimensions they identified through the 90 qualitative interviews. They tested the questions generated in a couple of focus groups by asking focus group members to consider the individual questions and to talk with the researchers about their thought processes as they answered the questions. They revised the questions following the focus group feedback and followed up a second time with individual interviews of another sample of 15 Black men. The researchers again sought feedback on question content and thoughts associated with the questions. They were then ready to pilot test 8 questions to a small group of 22 men.

They screened the men with the following “filter question”: “Have you had any experiences with police or law enforcement in the past year?” Thirteen of the 22 men responded “Yes” and they were asked to complete the questionnaire. After this phase of scale development, they changed the “filter question” time period from one year to 5 years to get a larger experience base to sample and dropped the overall scale length from the initial 8 questions to the following five questions.

In the past five years, how often have police or law enforcement…

  1. …accused you of having or selling drugs?
  2. …pulled you over for no reason while you were driving?
  3. …been verbally abusive to you?
  4. …been physically abusive to you?
  5. …treated you unfairly because of how you dress?

The final effort of scale validation used 1,264 Black men who ranged in age from 18 to 65 years with an average age of 43.99. Participants were recruited via a random-digit-dial method in four Georgia counties (Fulton, DeKalb, Lowndes, and Muskogee) located in three metropolitan areas (Atlanta, Columbus and Valdosta). Basically the interviewers called random numbers and asked if any Black males lived at the phone number. Those that did not hang up on them were asked if there was more than one Black male residing at the address and if yes, a single Black male at that phone number was selected for participation. Each Black male was asked all five questions on the PLE Scale.

Here is what they found:

Younger men had higher scores on all of the scale questions (including the filter question) when compared to older men.

Men with lower incomes scored higher on the scale questions and reported more accusations of drug abuse, more physical abuse, and more unfair treatment because of attire than men reporting higher incomes.

Men with less education reported more accusations of drug abuse, being pulled over, more unfair treatment due to attire, and more general experiences (in response to the filter question) compared to men with more education.

Men who had been in prison reported higher frequencies on all questions on the scale than did men who had no history of incarceration.

Higher scores on the scale were associated with more racial discrimination experiences and depressive symptoms.

The researchers believe this scale is culturally rooted in the experiences of Black men and can aid in describing the impact of police behaviors on Black men in a consistent way. From a litigation advocacy perspective, this scale may be used to help educate jurors on the day-to-day experiences of Black men as they encounter police and law enforcement officers.

English, D, Bowleg, L, del Rio-Gonzalez, M, Tschann, J Agans, RP Malebranche, DJ 2017. Measuring black men’s police-based discrimination experiences: Development and validation of the Police and Law Enforcement (PLE) Scale. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 25(2), 185-199.



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This is a really disturbing and yet, so intuitively predictable article about what happens when you are a Black, Brown, and/or Female manager in your workplace. While past research has blamed the high achiever for acting as gatekeepers and keeping other minority members out of positions of leadership—today’s research has a more empathic explanation for why that gatekeeping happens. Essentially, these researchers say that successful minority managers “know it could spell disaster for their own careers” if they support diverse candidates for management positions. Regardless of how many male or White managers promote the candidates most similar to themselves, it often spells trouble for a minority manager who does the same thing.

Today’s researchers wondered if minority status (being an ethnic minority or female) made a difference in how diversity initiatives proposed by managers were received. So they recruited 350 executives from a variety of American organizations (10% were non-White and about 30% were women). These executives represented 20 industries and 26 different job functions. Their bosses and up to three colleagues were asked to rate their competence and performance, how ready they were to be promoted, and whether they valued working with a diverse group of people.

According to Alex Fradera, who summarized this article over at the BPS Digest blog, there were findings consistent with earlier research about the importance of valuing diversity—but there were also some more disturbing findings we have not seen before.

“Promoting diversity” is seen as important in many organizations and findings in this study were consistent with earlier work—those who were rated higher for diversity-valuing behavior also received higher ratings for performance and competence.

But. And this is a big but. For non-white executives and for female executives, the more they were seen as valuing diversity, the lower the scores they received on competence and performance. (And those in this group who did receive higher scores on competence and performance, also were rated as showing the least interest in diversity.)

The researchers saw this as reflecting attitudinal biases where minorities who value diversity are negatively perceived since they are seen as favoring “their own” rather than maintaining the status quo. So they did a second study to ensure this was an accurate interpretation. You likely know what the results of that study were.

If a female or non-White manager, hired a female or non-White Vice President and mentioned promoting diversity in the hire—research participants gave that hiring manager poor ratings.

However, much like the first study, when a White male manager made that same decision with the same explanation of promoting diversity—they were not negatively rated by research participants.

So, no wonder past research has found that high-achieving non-White or female employees do not advocate for others “like them” to move ahead in the organization. Perhaps, rather than wanting to serve as a gatekeeper and avoid competition—they simply realize the career cost is too high for them to stand up and welcome in diverse others. Additionally, it seems that they will have less organizational influence —in minority hiring and more generally—than if they said or did less. In other words, as the researchers say, “ethnic minorities and women who engage in diversity-valuing behaviors tend to be negatively stereotyped, and thus, receive lower competence and performance ratings”.

It’s  a research finding that is clearly disturbing, but these researchers actually have some ideas to successfully develop a diverse workplace without harming anyone’s career path. Some of their recommendations may seem odd at first, but they also make sense given these research results.

Here are their recommendations:

Stop focusing attention on diversity-valuing behavior and focus instead on leaders’ “homogeneity-valuing behavior”.

Why? This puts the burden of proof on those trying to maintain the status quo rather than on those trying to change it. The researchers acknowledge that this is likely often an unfair standard and suggest it is more practical to follow their second and third recommendations.

Reward any hiring manager who hires someone demographically different from the hiring manager.

Why? The researchers say this will automatically increase minority numbers in the organization because White hiring managers are going to be looking for good minority candidates.

Also, non-White and female employees who seek to hire White males are going to likely avoid the negative ratings they would receive if they hired more diverse candidates. The researchers go so far as to say that hiring White males may be a “beneficial career strategy” for non-White and female hiring managers.

Consider putting a White male in charge of your diversity initiatives.

Why? The researchers say these positions in organizations are usually staffed by women or non-White employees who—based on these research results, will be suspect for supporting diversity.

If, for example, the CEO of the company (or the senior partner of a law firm) is a White male, that person may be a good choice to lead a diversity-valuing committee since it will help all employees see diversity as a legitimate goal. A White male leader will not be suspect and the diversity messages may be more successful because of it.

One simple example was the manager Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner) in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures”, a film about the astonishing contributions of three African-American women during the Apollo program at NASA. Harrison was as blind to the institutional racism these women faced as anyone else, but when he realized the negative effects on the women and his program, he aggressively sought to desegregate his workforce.

Hekman, DR Johnson, SK Foo, MD Yang, W. 2017. Does diversity-valuing behavior result in diminished performance ratings for non-white and female leaders? Academy of Management Journal, 60(2), 771-797.


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Think back to your Psychology 101 class in college or an upper level Social Psychology undergraduate course and you will probably remember the famous case of Kitty Genovese who was murdered in a brutal attack outside her Queens, NY apartment in 1964. According to psychology textbooks, at least 38 onlookers witnessed the attack (mostly through hearing her screams) and yet no one came to her aid or called the police.

Psychologists labeled this “seeing but not helping” phenomenon as “the bystander effect”. Essentially, they say, the presence of others observing someone who needs help, diminishes the likelihood that any individual person will help (since we presume others will come to the person’s aid).

But, as it turns out, the Kitty Genovese story we know is not accurate. Saul Kassin, perhaps the most famous of the false confessions researchers, reviewed the historical records on this case and discovered the facts have been misreported for decades. According to Kassin (who is one of the responders on a paper we wrote for The Jury Expert when working a false confessions case), bystanders did respond, several came to her aid, and others called the police.

There were also a number of people who gave false confessions for her murder.

Police arrested a 29-year-old Black man named Winston Moseley for burglary and said he gave a “full and detailed confession” to Genovese’s rape and murder as well as several additional women. However, the police already had a confession for one of the other women Moseley confessed to killing.

The second man, a White 18-year-old male named Alvin Mitchell had been “interrogated by the police seven times over 50 hours” and then signed a confession. He swiftly recanted and said he was threatened and physically abused while in police custody. Unfortunately, he was ultimately convicted and served 12 years and 8 months before being released. When asked why he’d falsely confessed, Mitchell told Kassin he would have “confessed to killing the president because them people had me scared to death”.

It is astonishing that the urban mythology surrounding Kitty Genovese’s murder has been so widely accepted. As psychologists, we were presented with false facts of the Kitty Genovese murder and schooled in the “bystander effect” theory which arose from the lack of help she allegedly received. This is a stunning reversal. And, for us, the relationship of false confessions to the Kitty Genovese case is a second interesting twist. The summary of the writeup we’ve linked to in this post has a lot of information, but the article itself is filled with facts you have not likely heard before.

For example, did you know Genovese had a same-sex partner, that it is questionable whether there were really 38 witnesses—let alone 38 witnesses who took no action whatsoever, that the police helped shape the story told in newspapers, or that there are a lot of parallels with the Genovese case to the facts (25 years later) surrounding the false confessions in the Central Park Jogger case?

If you find this information and analysis is as important to you as it is to us,  this article is well worth the effort to access and read it. The story of Kassin’s meeting with Alvin Mitchell (who served such a long time in jail due to his false confession) alone is riveting.

Kassin, S. 2017. The Killing of Kitty Genovese: What Else Does This Case Tell Us? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(3).



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