The Enemy as Animal: Symmetric Dehumanization During Asymmetric Warfare
Historically, dehumanization has enabled members of advantaged groups to ‘morally disengage’ from disadvantaged group suffering, thereby facilitating acts of intergroup aggression such as colonization, slavery and genocide. But is blatant dehumanization exclusive to those at the top ‘looking down’, or might disadvantaged groups similarly dehumanize those who dominate them? We examined this question in the context of intergroup warfare in which the disadvantaged group shoulders a disproportionate share of casualties and may be especially likely to question the humanity of the advantaged group. Specifically, we assessed blatant dehumanization in the context of stark asymmetric conflict between Israelis (Study 1; N = 521) and Palestinians (Study 2; N = 354) during the 2014 Gaza war. We observed that (a) community samples of Israelis and Palestinians expressed extreme (and comparable) levels of blatant dehumanization, (b) blatant dehumanization was uniquely associated with outcomes related to outgroup hostility for both groups, even after accounting for political ideologies known to strongly predict outgroup aggression, and (c) the strength of association between blatant dehumanization and outcomes was similar across both groups. This study illuminates the striking potency and symmetry of blatant dehumanization among those on both sides of an active asymmetric conflict.
Bruneau, Emile and Nour Kteily. 2017. The Enemy as Animal: Symmetric Dehumanization During Asymmetric Warfare. PLoS ONE. 12(7): e0181422.