Motivating factors of hate crimes

What motivates someone to engage in this type of hate-filled violence? The reasons are complex and multi-faceted. Here's a closer look at the psychology behind them.

When it comes to understanding the psychology behind hate crimes, law enforcement agencies like the FBI often cite a study conducted by sociologists Jack McDevitt and Jack Levin.

In their study, McDevitt and Levin identified four primary motivations of people who commit hate crimes. These motivating factors include thrill-seeking, defensive, retaliating, and mission-oriented behaviors. Here is a closer look at each motivating factor, according to Verywell.

Thrill-Seeking Offenders

Driven by an imbalanced need for excitement and drama, these offenders are often people seeking to stir up trouble. Many times, there is no real reason for their crimes. They are simply interested in the rush of excitement they get from wreaking havoc on the lives on others, especially those who can't defend themselves.

For this reason, they gravitate toward people who are more vulnerable because of their race, sexual identity, gender, or religious background. They also typically believe that society doesn't care what happens to these victims. They may even believe others will applaud their attacks.

Instead, they feel justified. They also believe that most of society supports what they do but are just too afraid to act.

Defensive Offenders

When it comes to defensive offenders, these attackers see themselves as defending something important to them — like their communities, their workplaces, their religion, or their country. Unlike the thrill-seekers who attack their victims by chance and without warning, defensive offenders target and victimize specific people.

Retaliatory Offenders

Motivated by revenge, these offenders are often motivated by something that happened in their lives. Either they were victimized personally or they witnessed an incident involving hate or terrorism and that has been the catalyst for their crime.

Additionally, they often act alone and target those affiliated in some way to the original offenders. For instance, the retaliatory offender's target may be of the same race or religion as those they blame for something else, but who had nothing to do with the original crime.

Mission Offenders

While this type of hate crime is rare — representing only 1% of the hate crimes committed — it is often the most hate-filled and violent. These offenders make a career out their hate and often write at length about their feelings. They also usually have elaborate, premeditated plans of attack.

The people who commit these crimes are often connected to groups that share their views and see themselves as crusaders for a race, religion, or political cause. Their goal is to wage war against their perceived enemies.