Several years ago, I was watching Matthew Shepard murder story on 20/20. On TV, Ms. Elizabeth Vargas interviewed the two offenders and asked them the question: "Did you attack him because he was a gay?" I said to myself, why didn't she ask "Did you attack him because you believed (perceived) he was a gay?" The two questions are different because the first question emphasizes the distinctiveness of victim as a reason for the offense whereas the second question suggests the offender's perception of the distinctiveness is the source of the offense. From the psychological perspective, the distinction is not ignorable.
The similar cognitive error can be found in other media reports about hate or other prejudice-motivated offenses. It is common to read a news article that explains a prejudice-motivated offense as generated by the victim's race, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin, among others. In other words, people tend to use the victims' group memberships or distinctiveness (e.g., race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs) to explain prejudice and related crime, assuming that individuals become the victims of prejudice or hate crime because of their group memberships. Read complete article - by Key Sun, Ph.D. – Psychology Today
Key Sun, Ph.D.
Central Washington University
Law and Justice