Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Exploring the link between infrahumanization and intergroup harm
by DeLuca, Dawn, Ph.D., New School University, 2009, 50; 3355415
Abstract (Summary)

Much anecdotal evidence and theorizing in the social sciences points to dehumanization of outgroups as a precursor of extreme intergroup violence. Yet, until recently, few empirical studies in the social psychological literature have linked dehumanization and severe intergroup conflict. The present dissertation uses a relatively new concept, termed infra-humanization by Leyens and colleagues, to examine a subtle, everyday form of dehumanization. It involves denying that outgroups have the capacity to feel secondary emotions, which are emotions that are considered uniquely human, as opposed to primary emotions that are shared by young children and animals mainly because they are less cognitively complex. In order to further extend the literature linking infra-humanization to severe behavioral consequences, we conducted a series of experiments using this paradigm. The following dissertation describes two studies in detail.

Study One examined whether liberal and conservative Caucasian participants would attribute uniquely human emotions differently to a Hispanic versus Caucasian target after a hurricane. Results showed that whereas participants who self-identified as liberal did not attribute uniquely human emotions differently to the two targets, those self-identifying as conservatives assigned significantly less uniquely human emotions, but an equal number of non-uniquely human emotions, to the Hispanic target. This infra-humanization was also associated with attitudes about what type of aid should be provided to the family members, although the evidence in this regard was not conclusive.

In Study Two, participants responded to an online questionnaire with a fictional scenario in which terrorists stormed a building and held hostages. Four conditions varied the nationality of the hostages between Pennsylvanian and Japanese, and whether they felt secondary or primary emotions. Results indicated that after controlling for gender, age and political affiliation, participants were more likely to choose a strategy that would lead to the death of hostages when the hostages were outgroup members and expressed secondary emotions. This result is in line with previous infra-humanization research, that found enhanced dislike for outgroup members expressing secondary emotions. The findings extend the outgroup derogation literature on severe behavioral consequences and have implications for conflict resolution.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Castano, Emanuele
Commitee: Ginges, Jeremy, Hirst, William
School: New School University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 70/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology
Keywords: Dehumanization, Emotions, Infrahumanization, Intergroup conflict, Political ideology
Publication Number: 3355415
ISBN: 9781109139693
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