"They See Us As Less Than Human": Meta-Dehumanization Predicts Intergroup Conflict Via Reciprocal Dehumanization, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Although the act of dehumanizing an outgroup is a pervasive and potent intergroup process that drives discrimination and conflict, no formal research has examined the consequences of being dehumanized by an outgroup – i.e. ‘meta-dehumanization’. Across ten studies (N = 3,440) involving several real-world conflicts spanning three continents, we provide the first empirical evidence that meta-dehumanization (a) plays a central role in outgroup aggression that is (b) mediated by outgroup dehumanization, and (c) distinct from meta-prejudice. Studies 1a and 1b demonstrate experimentally that Americans receiving information that Arabs (Study 1a) or Muslims (Study 1b) blatantly dehumanize Americans are more likely to dehumanize that outgroup in return; by contrast, experimentally increasing outgroup dehumanization did not increase meta- dehumanization (Study 1c). Using correlational data, Study 2 documents indirect effects of meta-dehumanization on Americans’ support for aggressive policies towards Arabs (e.g., torture) via Arab dehumanization. In the context of Hungarians and ethnic minority Roma, Study 3 shows that the pathway for Hungarians from meta-dehumanization to aggression through outgroup dehumanization holds controlling for outgroup prejudice. Study 4 examines Israelis’ meta-perceptions with respect to Palestinians, showing that: (a) feeling dehumanized (i.e., meta-dehumanization) is distinct from feeling disliked (i.e., meta-prejudice), and (b) meta-dehumanization uniquely influences aggression through outgroup dehumanization, controlling for meta-prejudice. Studies 5a and 5b explore Americans’ meta-perceptions regarding ISIS and Iran. We document a dehumanization- specific pathway from meta-dehumanization to aggressive attitudes and behavior that is distinct from the path from meta-prejudice through prejudice to aggression. In Study 6, American participants learning that Muslims humanize Americans (i.e., meta- humanization) humanize Muslims in turn. Finally, Study 7 experimentally contrasts meta-dehumanization and meta-humanization primes, and shows that resulting differences in outgroup dehumanization are mediated by (1) a general desire to reciprocate the outgroup’s perceptions of the ingroup, and (2) perceived identity threat. In sum, our research outlines how and why meta-dehumanization contributes to cycles of ongoing violence and animosity, thus providing direction for future research and policy.
Kteily, Nour. 2016. "They See Us As Less Than Human": Meta-Dehumanization Predicts Intergroup Conflict Via Reciprocal Dehumanization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 110(3): 343-370.