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Abstract: Many claim the underlying causes of gun violence lie in the individual traits of the shooters (Gallup, Jones, & Saad, 2019) while others blame disadvantageous neighborhood conditions (Bieler, Kijakazi, La Vigne, Vinik, & Overton, 2016; Edley & Ruiz de Velasco, 2008; Wolf & Rosen, 2015). Given that young Black men are most affected by gun violence (CDC, 2018), do racial stereotypes influence beliefs on the causal nature of gun violence, and if so, does it affect what response people feel is needed to treat this problem? In two preliminary studies, we investigate how contextual information about the causes of gun violence affect the stereotypical attributions and its implications for policymaking. In study 1, (N=231), participants read one of two news articles: one explaining how structural racism created conditions that foster gun violence (structural condition), or one explaining how an individual’s level of socioemotional cognitive functioning contributes to gun violence (individual condition). Compared to the structural condition, the individual condition was associated with greater attributions of gun violence that were consistent with negative racial stereotypes. Study 2 (N=570) explored whether stereotypical attributions affect real-world policy proposals and includes a no-treatment control condition to understand participants’ spontaneous attributions for gun violence. Regression analyses revealed that the structural article predicted less stereotypical beliefs than the control and the individual articles, less support for punitive policy solutions, and greater support for restorative policies compared to the other two conditions. This effect was found in participants across the political ideology spectrum, including conservatives who traditionally hold a punitive mindset towards criminal justice (Carroll et al. 1987; Gromet & Darley, 2011; Jost et al. 2003; Skitka et al. 2002). The structural article’s effect on policy support was partially mediated by stereotypical attributions for gun violence. There was no significant difference between the individual condition and the no-treatment control condition, suggesting that the dominant approach in evaluating gun violence is through an individualistic lens. Together, these findings suggest explaining how promoting a contextual understanding of how structural disadvantage influences violent behavior can undermine stereotypical attributions, which carries significant implications for public policies. -- Cintia P. Hinojosa PhD Student, Behavioral Science The University of Chicago Booth School of Business 5807 South Woodlawn Avenue Chicago, IL 60637 Tel 512.738.4675 | Website <>
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