Date of Graduation

Spring 2011

Degree

Master of Science in Psychology

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

William Deal

Keywords

stalking, homosexual, same-sex, perception, prejudice

Subject Categories

Psychology

Abstract

Stalking is one of the most difficult crimes to report and prosecute because of the highly subjective nature of stalking legislation. Being that the crime hinges on persons' interpretation of events, it can be assumed that these interpretations are susceptible to bias. Disparate perceptions may form based upon characteristics of the perpetrator and target, instead of the facts of the case. To date, there are no empirical studies regarding the influence of homosexual and same-sex targets and perpetrators on third party perceptions of the situation. This study describes the influence of sexuality, target gender, and relationship between the stalker and target on perceptions of stalking. Participants were obtained from Introductory Psychology classes at a Midwestern university. Perceptions of stalking such as danger and risk were measured using 12 stalking vignettes. Sexuality (heterosexual, gay, lesbian), relationship status (couple, acquaintance, stranger), and the gender of the target were manipulated to determine the effect on the participants' perceptions of stalking. Data from 514 participants revealed significant mean differences for all 3 independent variables. Each of the three variables significantly impacted participants' assessment of the stalking event. The situation was viewed as being less dangerous if the target was a male. If the perpetrator was a former intimate then he or she was viewed as less of a threat. Both of these trends are congruent with findings from other studies published in this area. Finally, if the target was homosexual or the same-sex as the perpetrator, there was actually significantly more concern for these parties. These final data contradict what researchers hypothesized. These findings illustrate the bias in third parties' perception of stalking, and may have implications for the assessment of stalking cases.

Copyright

© S. Scott Shipman

Campus Only

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