SAFE Grant Student Spotlight: Andrew Taylor, Psychology

SAFE Grant Student Spotlight: Andrew Taylor, Psychology

Andrew Taylor is a graduate student from Faison, N.C.

Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) fund recipient

Project: “Rape as a Hate Crime: Comparing the Effects of Different Framings of Rape on Mock Jurors”

Thanks to SAFE grant funding, Taylor was able to travel to the 2020 American Psychology-Law Society (APLS) conference in New Orleans to present his research on “Rape as a Hate Crime: Comparing the Effects of Different Framings of Rape on Mock Jurors.” At the conference, Taylor made connections with multiple students and professors, gained research ideas and even met a future Appalachian graduate student. Taylor believes making a personal connection with the student may have led them to commit to coming to Appalachian.

“The funding from the SAFE Grant allowed me to travel to the conference with a smaller financial burden. When presenting at a professional conference with leading professors in the field attending your presentation and asking you questions, all that the student should worry about is the task at hand, and not how they are going to pay for this conference,” explained Taylor.

Taylor conducts research through the SLAP (Students of Law and Psychology) Lab which studies the intersection of psychology and the legal system. Currently, they are focusing on understanding how juries make decisions in sexual assault cases. 

“The study is asking the question if we frame the crime of rape as a ‘hate crime’ against women vs an ‘interpersonal crime’ as it is usually presented can we increase the currently low conviction rates among mock jurors who are participating in our experiment. The answer according to our research is no. Our research demonstrates that framing a sexual assault case as a ‘hate crime’ against women has no effect on the conviction rate of mock jurors,” said Taylor.

Additionally, what Taylor presented at the APLS conference is just a small part of a larger study that has been ongoing for years and is just now in the final phase of data collection. Data was collected through the use of Appalachian State's SONA system, a Psychology recruiting system for human subject research. Ultimately, Taylor helped collect data from around 1,500 individuals.

This research was also conducted with graduate student Patricia Ferreira who received a different university grant for travel to the APLS conference, and Dr. Twila Wingrove, SLAP Lab program director and associate professor in the Department of Psychology.

Wingrove commented “With regard to working with Andrew: It is always rewarding to see my students engage with the broader academic community at national conferences. Andrew has a particular talent for describing research in a down-to-earth conversational manner so that anyone who walked by the poster was able to understand the research.” 

Wingrove knew that without SAFE fund support, Andrew would not have been able to see his hard work through to the end. He would have worked on developing the presentation in Boone, but would not have been able to actually deliver it in New Orleans at the conference. “I'm grateful he got that opportunity to see how others respond to the research.”

Following the completion of the study, Taylor hopes future researchers can evaluate other aspects of the project. 

“Less than five percent of total rape cases in the United States make it into the courtroom, and of those cases an even smaller number receive a conviction. Even though our study did not find evidence that framing rape as a hate crime increases conviction rates, there is ample opportunity for future research studies to examine what conditions within a court case produce higher conviction rates, and what conditions within a court case reduce conviction rates in instances of sexual assault,” said Taylor.


About the SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at:

About the Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology 
Appalachian’s Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology serves more than 1,000 undergraduate majors seeking the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, as well as 80 graduate students in three master’s programs (experimental psychology, school psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology and human resource management) and the clinical psychology (Psy.D.) doctoral program. Learn more at

Compiled and written by Sophia Woodall
October 25, 2021

SAFE student recipient Andrew Taylor, Psychology. Photo submitted.
Published: Oct 25, 2021 12:47pm