Race–Crime Congruency Effects Revisited: Do We Take Defendants' Sexual Orientation Into Account?

Christopher D. Petsko*, Galen V. Bodenhausen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Decades ago, social psychologists documented a juror decision-making bias called the race–crime congruency effect: a tendency to condemn Black men more than White men for stereotypically Black crimes but to do the reverse for stereotypically White crimes. We conducted two high-powered experiments (N = 2,520) to see whether this pattern replicates and to examine whether it is attenuated when the defendant is gay. When participants reported on what the average American juror would do (Experiment 1), we observed greater harshness toward Black defendants accused of stereotypically Black crimes but not the previously documented reversal for stereotypically White crimes. Defendant sexual orientation did not moderate this pattern. When participants reported their own judgments about the same criminal cases (Experiment 2), they expressed greater harshness toward White (vs. Black) defendants and toward heterosexual (vs. gay) defendants. These effects were not moderated by crime type. Implications for the race–crime congruency effect are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • crime perceptions
  • racial bias
  • sexual orientation
  • stereotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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