Emily RabeFollow

Faculty Mentor

Brooke Nott


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This research explores the importance of studying the theory of dehumanization. Over six million people were subject to torture and killed during WWII; the theory of dehumanization provides a possible explanation for how people could commit such horrible acts toward another human being (Dawidowicz, 1981). Although extreme cases of dehumanization, like genocide, are not currently a frequent concern within the U.S., certain groups of people still experience dehumanization on a daily basis. By examining past research, it was determined that the act of dehumanization is a cognitive process that can be seen physically taking place within the brain. Harris and Fisk (2006) found that the cognitive reaction to dehumanized groups is demonstrated via exaggerated amygdala and insula reactions, which is consistent with past neurological research about the brain registering disgust. Various examples from research confirm the problem of dehumanization as a widespread issue. People from different ethnic groups, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people experiencing homelessness have all been found to be targets of dehumanization in the past and present. Due to the brain’s automatic response of registering disgust when presented with members of outgroups, there is little room left to empathize with members of those groups. Our ability to dehumanize has had many negative side effects within society, like discrimination and the development of an unwillingness to engage in helping behavior that could benefit members of outgroups (Haslam, & Stratemeyer, 2016). Given these costs, research regarding the prevention of dehumanization is necessary. Evidence exists to support the use of counter stereotypes and perspective taking as two effective methods to decrease dehumanization by promoting diversity and decreasing group bias (Prati, Vasiljevic, Crisp, & Rubini, 2015; Shih, Stotzer, & Gutiérrez, 2013). The prevention methods developed to decrease dehumanization could help to encourage individuals to support inclusive policies, help to dissuade discrimination, and promote diversity. Dehumanization is an individual cognitive process that in the past has contributed to mass murders such as the holocaust, and currently prevents people from empathizing with members of outgroups. Future research is essential to decrease the rates of dehumanization today.




Psychological Sciences


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