About Me

Caroline ErentzenThanks for visiting! I received my Ph.D. in Social Psychology from York University in 2019, and I have been a lawyer at the Ontario Bar since 2007. My research interests focus on the ways that psychology can inform legal processes and challenge assumptions under the law. I am currently working as a SSHRC-funded post doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Alison Chasteen. Please see below for a full description of my research interests. 


Gendered Islamophobia &  Muslim Rights

My next research stream will focus on the gendered dimensions of Islamophobia in Canada and the pursuit of Muslim rights in this country. Many veiled Muslim women and girls report that they experience negative comments or hostility directed toward their religious identity, which can reduce feelings of personal safety in public and less connectedness to Canada. Much of this hostility is based on xenophobic fear of new groups compounded by sensationalized media coverage of extremism overseas. This coverage belies the true diversity of the faith and obscures the typically moderate and peaceful expressions of Islam worldwide. It would appear that the only acceptable expression of autonomy for Muslim women is secularism, a constraint not imposed on male members of Islam nor female members of any other faith. My research will explore the intersectionality of gender and religion in predicting cognitive and affective reactions toward Muslim men and women. The second stream of this research will focus more closely on the pursuit of religious equality rights for Muslim persons in Canada. Muslim Canadians face an uphill battle in the struggle for equality, with both provincial and federal governments enacting thinly-disguised Islamophobic legislation. Part of this work will test an intervention strategy to reduce intergroup hostility, focusing on a common superordinate Canadian identity that reframes the discussion as the pursuit of “human rights” rather than “Muslim rights.”

Hate Crime and Model Minority Victims

My dissertation research explored the cognitive underpinnings of reactions to anti-Muslim hate, including the role of model minority victim expectations. I discovered that observers tend to show sympathy toward victims of anti-Muslim hate crime, but only when the victim is polite and passively accepts harassment from the perpetrator. More troubling, when the Muslim victim even verbally reacted to the harassment, observers engaged in significant victim blaming and were less likely to interpret the offence as a hate crime at all. The behaviour of non-Muslim victims was not scrutinized in this way, suggesting that observer sympathy for Muslim victims was contingent on their passivity. Other research has explored the behavioural expectations that are placed on hate crime victims, and how this might vary in relation to the victim’s specific group identity. What is the role of individual differences such as authoritarianism and social dominance orientation or group-specific prejudice in predicting these reactions? How do people respond to hate crimes that do not fit our expectations of prototypicality, and might this explain legal outcomes?

Wrongful Convictions

One line of my research explores the causes and consequences of wrongful convictions. We recently studied the experiences of defence counsel with representing innocent clients, including their estimates of the hidden prevalence of wrongful convictions in Canada. In addition, we are examining the factors that influence the perception that an exoneree is truly innocent and the impact that a formal apology and compensation can have.

Challenge for Cause/Juror Bias

This line of research explores the use of the challenge for cause procedure in screening jurors for racial bias against racialized defendants. Where the challenge is made, how many prospective jurors admit in open court that they would be unable to judge the case fairly due to the defendant’s race? Does it matter how the question is asked, or whether there are other members of the jury panel present when the question is asked? Is the screening question successful at identifying racial bias, and what alternative ways might there be to screen jurors?

Stranger Harassment

My more recent line of study has focused on gender-based sexual harassment from strangers, both at street level (e.g., catcalling, sexual comments) and online (e.g., trolling on social media,  unsolicited nude photos). Prior research has established that the overwhelming majority of women experience stranger sexual harassment in day-to-day life, but less has explored the prevalence of harassment in cyberspace. We are exploring the prevalence and nature of online harassment, as well as how often men experience similar forms of unwanted sexual attention.