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The Factors Of Hate Crimes

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There are two main factors associated with the heightened risk of hate-related crime: psychological and physiological aspects of individuals low self- control (Nasi et al., 2016). Hate crime is not a crime that is directed towards an individual but an entire community (Fashola, 2018). It is important to understand that the impact of the hate-related crimes is devastating, as hate crimes are “message crimes in that the perpetrator is sending a message to the members of a certain group that they are despised, devalued, or unwelcome in a particular neighbourhood, community, school, or workplace” (American Psychological Association 1998 in Fashola, 2018). After identifying the risk factors for hate-related criminal behavior, it would be possible to implement intervention techniques targeted on those risk factors that would lead to the reduction of hate crime. The purpose of this paper is to shed some light on how psychological aspects of low self- control, such as emotional disposition of individuals, perceptions of pleasure and shame and thrill seeking, as well as physiological aspect of greater physical arousal toward danger and risk-taking, rather than towards the possibility of the punishment are the mere factors related to the increased risk of hate crime (Tibbets & Hemmens, 2018, pp. 361).

Literature Review

One theory that prompted research on how individuals’ low self-control increases the risk of hate-crime was Hirshi’s & Gottfredson’s Low Self- Control Theory, often referred to as the General Theory of Crime (Hirshi & Gottfredsson, 1990). The main assumption of this theory is that people can take a degree of control and within central limitations control themselves, however low self-control may implicate a series of personality traits and behavior such as: impulsivity, risk- taking and inability to delay gratification (Tibbets & Hemmens, 2018, pp. 360). This can lead to the heightened risk of hate-related crimes.

Emotional disposition can be a crucial factor of the individuals’ low self-control (2018, pp. 361). Study on reconceptualization of Hirshi’s self- control concerning drunk driving and shoplifting showed that the individuals with low self-control had lower levels of anticipated shame but considerably higher levels of perceived pleasure in committing both (Bouffard et al., 2015). This confirms that individuals with low self-control will be oriented towards gratification and taking advantage of accessible resources, while avoiding negative emotional reactions such as shame (Tibbets & Hemmens, 2018, pp. 360). Researchers also found that there is overrepresentation of a particular personality trait that certain hate crime perpetrators possess, which is predisposition to prejudice towards minority groups (Dion, 1990).

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Boston case study on typology of hate crime offenders, revealed that “the most common type of a hate crime was committed for the thrill or excitement” (McDewitt et al., 2002). In the research on antigay behavior among young adults, Franklin (2000) reported that most adolescent thrill seekers, appeared to be powerless and socially alienated. This, according to the case study on group threat in hate-motivated assaults confirms that hate crimes can result from the perpetrators need to have the power and control over their victims (Levin & Reichelmann, 2015). Byers et al (1999) also reported that thrill seeking appeared to be the key motivation for the hate crime offenders. The extensive body of work on psychological aspects of low self-control demonstrates that individuals differ in their attitudes towards hate-related crimes and that the rewards of risky acts, such as hate crimes may outweigh the potential consequences for the thrill seekers (Burt & Simons, 2013). This can decrease the feelings of shame and the long term consequences of such acts for the offenders (2013). Studies confirms that psychological aspects of low self- control such as emotional disposition, attitudes towards pleasure and shame and thrill seeking are the main factors associated with the heightened risk of engaging in hate crime (Tibbets & Hemmens, 2018, pp. 361).

Research has shown that low self- control can also be tied to physiological factors which can increase the risk of engaging in hate- related behavior (2018, pp. 361). Chronic offenders are confirmed to show greater physical arousal toward risk- taking and criminal behavior and lower towards the likelihood of punishment (Raine, 1993 in Tibbets & Hemmens, 2018, pp. 361). In contrast, those who exhibit low physiological arousal express lower level of fear, shame and have difficulty distinguishing between their behaviour and its consequences (Vaske, 2017). Continuous offenders have lower resting heart rates and are constantly under aroused, which motivates them to participate in activities that stimulate their arousal level to a more optimal one ( Eysenck, 1997 in Wilson & Scarpa, 2012). Study conducted by Coren (1999) on how the arousal predisposition predicts antisocial and criminal behavior showed negative linear correlation and confirmed that individuals with lower arousal predisposition appeared to be more likely to be involved in criminal activities. Moreover, those who engage in hate-related criminal behavior are encouraged by the physiological mechanisms that reward their activities by releasing chemicals in the brain that are responsible for the feeling of pleasure (Tibbets & Hemmens, 2018, pp. 361).

As can be seen, individuals with low self-control appear to derive psychological and physiological pleasure from engaging in hate-related criminal behavior, while at the same time being less likely to be constrained by internal emotional factors such as guilt and shame (2018, pp. 361).


In order to explain hate- related criminal behavior a review of empirical findings and relevant theoretical assumptions is necessary. A large body of presented literature confirms that psychological as well as physiological aspects of individual’s low self- control are the main factors associated with the increased risk of hate crime (Nasi et al., 2016). Individuals’ emotional disposition of low self- control is related both to the increased perception of pleasure from risk taking and lower concern for negative emotional reactions of guilt and shame (Bouffard et al., 2015). Thrill seeking and the need for power and control over the victims appears to be the key motivation for the hate crime (Byers et al, 1999). Those who engage in hate crimes appear to derive physiological pleasures from the risk-taking behaviors

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The Factors Of Hate Crimes. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2023, from
“The Factors Of Hate Crimes.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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