Noor, M, Kteily, N, Siem, B and Mazziotta, A (2019) ‘Terrorist’ or ‘Mentally Ill’: Motivated Biases Rooted in Partisanship Shape Attributions about Violent Actors. Social Psychology and Personality Science, 10 (4). pp. 485-493. ISSN 1948-5514

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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.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Corresponding Author: Masi Noor, School of Psychology, Keele University, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, United Kingdom. Emails:;
Uncontrolled Keywords: terrorism; mental illness; attributions; punitiveness; motivated reasoning
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > HV6431 Terrorism
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Primary Care Health Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2018 09:23
Last Modified: 02 May 2019 14:05

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