“Terrorist” or “Mentally Ill”: Motivated Biases Rooted in Partisanship Shape Attributions About Violent Actors

Masi Noor*, Nour Kteily, Birte Siem, Agostino Mazziotta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

We investigated whether motivated reasoning rooted in partisanship affects the attributions individuals make about violent attackers’ underlying motives and group memberships. Study 1 demonstrated that on the day of the Brexit referendum pro-leavers (vs. pro-remainers) attributed an exculpatory (i.e., mental health) versus condemnatory (i.e., terrorism) motive to the killing of a pro-remain politician. Study 2 demonstrated that pro-immigration (vs. anti-immigration) perceivers in Germany ascribed a mental health (vs. terrorism) motive to a suicide attack by a Syrian refugee, predicting lower endorsement of punitiveness against his group (i.e., refugees) as a whole. Study 3 experimentally manipulated target motives, showing that Americans distanced a politically motivated (vs. mentally ill) violent individual from their in-group and assigned him harsher punishment—patterns most pronounced among high-group identifiers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-493
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2019

Keywords

  • attributions
  • mental illness
  • motivated reasoning
  • punitiveness
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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