Denying Humanness to Victims

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    • 00:00

      [Emma Alleyne, Lecturer in Forensic Psychology,University of Kent, Denying Humanness to Victims]

    • 00:09

      EMMA ALLEYNE: Hi.My name is Dr. Emma Alleyne.I'm a lecturer in forensic psychology at the Universityof Kent. [Dr. Emma Alleyne, Lecturer in ForensicPsychology, University of Kent] I'm presenting a paper that werecently published in the Journal of Group Processesand Intergroup Relations as part of a special issuethat was guest edited by Dr. Jane Wood and Professor HowieGiles. [Guest Edited by Dr. Jane Wood and Professor Howie Giles]My co-authors, Isabel Fernandes, and Elizabeth Pritchard,

    • 00:31

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: were both my master's students and we all collaboratedin terms of the research design, analysis of our data,and writing up this paper that was published. [Authored by Dr.Emma Alleyne, Isabel Fernandes, and Elizabeth Pritchard] Thetitle of the paper is "Denying Humanness to Victims--How Gang Member Justify Their Violent Behavior."["Denying Humanness to Victims-- How Gang Members Justify

    • 00:52

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: Violent Behavior"]The reasons why we were interested in conductinga research study like this is becausethe psychological characteristics of gang membersaren't clearly defined in the literature.And these are the kinds of characteristicsthat related offending literature showsif you target them in treatment or interventions,

    • 01:13

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: they are the most effective.So looking at gang members and their experiences,we would argue that given-- they'requite traumatic experiences because they'reinvolved in stabbings, for example,in the UK context, which can resultin serious injuries or even death.So we were interested in, what are the kinds of mechanisms

    • 01:35

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: that these young people, who are as young as 12, 13,14 years old, what are the mechanismsthat they employ to minimize the impactof these traumatic experiences?Because they still engage in these crimes.They're still part of the gang.But we want to understand that process even more.So our research question for this study was,

    • 01:57

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: what are the socio-cognitive mechanisms that gangmembers employ that minimize the impact of violent behavioror violent crime?Our study was based primarily on Albert Bandura'ssocial cognitive theory.The reason why we thought this theory wouldbe quite appropriate is because Bandura

    • 02:18

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: argued that our behavior is shapedwith the interaction between the self, or the individual,and their environment.So if you think about the street gang context,gang members do have agency in the behaviorsthat they engage in.But they are also largely influencedby the gang culture, the gang context, the neighborhoods

    • 02:41

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: that they live in that have many gangs there.So we thought that theory would helpus frame our study by looking at the kinds of strategiesthat interplay between the self and the context.So Albert Bandura argued that sometimes whathappens, even though we might know right from wrong,

    • 03:05

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: we will override the impact of doingsomething wrong for benefits that wethink are more valuable.And he conceptualized that in the socio-cognitive theoryof moral disengagement.So there are eight moral disengagement strategieshe theorized that we employ to help us essentially feel better

    • 03:28

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: about some of the immoral behaviorthat we might engage in.So he argued that we might employ a strategy calledmoral justification.This is simply put-- the end justifies the mean.And so it's OK to engage in certain behaviorsbecause we feel morally justified for it.He also argued that we employ strategies

    • 03:49

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: called euphemistic language.So we might use euphemisms to describe our behaviorso they don't sound as bad.We also use advantageous comparisons.So what I did is not nearly as bad as what someone else did.Because if we can see someone elsedoing something far worse than what we were doing,

    • 04:10

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: then we don't feel, again, as bad for the behaviorsthat we're engaging in.Displacement of responsibility.So in a hierarchical setting, as youcan imagine in a gang setting, if a core gang member tellsyou to engage in a certain behavior,then you're just following orders.And you can use that to attenuate

    • 04:30

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: your cognitive dissonance.There's also diffusion of responsibility.So in a group, if every member took partin that violent crime, then the responsibility'sonly a little part of each and every one of you.Therefore, you don't feel as bad for the behaviorthat you're engaging in.Distortion or minimizing or disregarding

    • 04:52

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: the consequences of our behaviorsis another strategy that we could employ.And this just involves-- it's that kind of out of sight, outof mind mentality.So if you don't see the harm that you're causing,then you haven't caused any harm at all.We also blame the victims, which is another strategy.So in a gang context, you can imagine

    • 05:13

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: if you're attacking a rival gang member,they can take some of the blame because youcould be retaliating, or it couldbe as a protective function.If you don't engage in the violence,they're going to hurt you.And finally, there's dehumanization.So it's dehumanizing the victims of our crimeso we don't feel like we're actually causing harm

    • 05:33

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: to a person.So it's stripping away their human qualities,their emotions, their feelings so that we justthink that we are hurting some thing that's not like us.So we want to see if these cognitive strategiesor cognitive mechanisms could help explainwhy some people engage in violent crime,

    • 05:56

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: in particular in the gang context.We were interested in looking at moral disengagement strategiesbecause, in past literature, it hasbeen shown that gang members do employ moral disengagementstrategies.But what the research was also suggestingis that sometimes these strategiesare context-dependent.

    • 06:17

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: So it's not always the case that they're always employingthese specific strategies.But it may be more interesting for us to find outif they employ strategies in a particular type of crimeor in a particular context.So that formed the basis of the current studyin terms of looking at which strategies

    • 06:37

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: do people employ when engaging in violent crime specifically,and that's why we want to look at that relationship here.So the current study that we've just got published,it was conducted in the UK.And we thought the UK context wasimportant to look at because what'squite interesting is that in Europe there traditionally

    • 07:02

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: was this belief that street gangs do not exist in Europe.And this was coined the "Eurogang Paradox,"and it was argued that the American-type streetgang didn't exist in Europe.And this American type was based on these inaccuratestereotypes, because the stereotypes didn't typically

    • 07:23

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: exist in the US either.But more and more research is coming outof Europe, and the UK specifically,showing that street gangs do exist in the UK.And so we focused on London specificallyto recruit our participants to seewho is involved in street gangs and who is not

    • 07:45

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: and also see which strategies they employ in which contexts.So we recruited our participants from areasthat we had learned where gangs exist quite predominately.And we recruited our participantsfrom local youth centers that serve the communitythat a lot of young people go to and one secondary school

    • 08:10

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: in that area as well.So we ended up recruiting 189 participants,young people between the ages of 12 and 25from these areas in London.We found that 25, or 13%, of our sample were gang members.

    • 08:31

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: And we identified these people, these young people,as gang members using the Eurogang definition.So the Eurogang definition arguesthat a person is a part of a gang based on four criteria--that the group that they are a member of is youthful,durable-- that they've been together for a while--

    • 08:52

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: street-oriented, and group crime or group criminalityis an integral part of the group identity.So if the young people who were answering our questionnairesfulfilled those four criteria, weidentified them as a gang member basedon the Eurogang definition.And so that's how we got 25 of our participants identified

    • 09:15

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: as gang members.So we compared the gang members to the non-gang youth,which would be considered a control group,on measures of whether they've engagedin violent crime and a scale thatassesses their endorsement of moral disengagement strategies.So we could identify which strategies they employed more

    • 09:38

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: than others.So what we found was, as you'd expect,gang members were far more likely to self-reportthat they've engaged in violent crime than non-gang youth.We also found that gang members scored significantly higheron some of the moral disengagement strategies,

    • 09:59

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: specifically moral justification,euphemistic language, advantageous comparison,displacement of responsibility, attribution of blame,and dehumanization.So those were the strategies that they were endorsing morethan the non-gang youth.But if you go back to what I was talking about in terms

    • 10:21

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: of the background research, what we wanted to seeis, is there a process there?Are there strategies, specific strategies,that could explain the relationship between gangmembership and committing violent crime?So this part of our analyses was exploratory,seeing, using mediation analysis, which

    • 10:43

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: of the strategies could explain that relationship.So we ran a series of mediation analyses using the strategiesthat we found significant in our original analyses.And what we found was that the only model thatfit our data in terms of explaininghow gang members engage in violent crime

    • 11:05

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: was when we had dehumanization as a mediator,as a partial mediator.So it doesn't explain the whole story,but it's the only one that explained at least someof the story.So in simple words, what we foundwas that being a gang member was linkedto dehumanization strategies, whichpartially explained their engagement in violent crime.

    • 11:30

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: So we thought this was quite an interesting finding, whichis why we wanted to get this paper published.Because it neatly places the gang researchand looking at the psychological characteristicsin the intersection between social psychologyand forensic psychology, because we

    • 11:51

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: were using a lot of what we know from the social psychologicalliterature to help us understand what'shappening in the street gang context.And so what we're finding here in terms--that apply to the dehumanization literatureis gang members who see their fellow gangmembers similar to themselves will

    • 12:12

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: have moral concern for them and will care for them.But people that they engage in violent crime towards,they strip away the human qualities of that person, whichmakes it, for them, feel OK to engage in that violent crime,or at least makes it easier for themto cope with engaging in those behaviors.And so that's a mechanism that's worth

    • 12:34

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: considering in interventions, because there are alreadysome interventions that look at designatinghuman qualities to your victims as a process of reducingviolent offending.And so it's something worth consideringwhen working with gang members.But given that dehumanization only partially

    • 12:55

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: mediated the relationship between gang membersand violent crime, there's still more to the storythat we need to learn.And so more research is certainly needed in this area.So one of the reasons why we think that this study has beenread so much, given the statisticsthat we've been seeing, is it does draw together

    • 13:18

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: different disciplines who are interested in, for example,the application of social psychological theoryin the applied context of, for example, street gangs.And so it's bringing together a lot of different literatures,a lot of different disciplines.And I think that there's more work thatcan be done with this multi-disciplinary approach.

    • 13:42

      EMMA ALLEYNE [continued]: So that's a summary of our study.I'd be more than happy to answer any more questions that youhave, so please feel free to contact me on my email address.[ you.

Denying Humanness to Victims

View Segments Segment :


Dr. Emma Alleyne discusses her research into how gang members mediate the trauma of participating in violent crime. Though she found evidence of several moral disengagement practices, only dehumanization fit the model to partly explain how and why gang members participate in violent crime.

Denying Humanness to Victims

Dr. Emma Alleyne discusses her research into how gang members mediate the trauma of participating in violent crime. Though she found evidence of several moral disengagement practices, only dehumanization fit the model to partly explain how and why gang members participate in violent crime.

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