Masters Thesis

Punishing the Model Minority: An Aversive Racism Explanation for Jury Decision Biases toward Asian American Defendants

Although overt racism has diminished considerably over the past few decades, subtler forms of racism continue to perpetuate in contemporary society. The theory of aversive racism is a contemporary form of subtle racism that postulates an individual may hold egalitarian values but still have feelings of prejudice at an implicit level. This theory has been used to explain prejudice by jurors toward African American and Latino defendants, but has yet to examine Asian defendants as targets of prejudice. The purpose of this thesis was to examine prejudice toward Asian defendants by mock jurors from an aversive racism perspective. A 2 (Race: White or Asian) x 2 (Crime: embezzlement or computer hacking) x 2 (SES: low or high) between-subjects study was conducted. Participants read a trial vignette describing the crime the defendant had allegedly committed. They were then asked to render a verdict, recommend a sentence, and rate the defendant on various culpability and trait measures. Results showed mock jurors perceived the high SES Asian defendant more positively in regard to personal traits. Additionally, mock jurors found the defendant who committed embezzlement more culpable for their crimes and perceived the defendant more negatively in terms of personal traits. Similar to previous research, mock jurors ascribed more negative traits to defendants of low SES. Limitations and future directions are discussed.

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