Dehumanization: A Threat and Solution to Terror Management

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Humans have no experience being nonhuman animals or objects. It is perhaps not surprising then that humans have a propensity to conceive that nonhuman entities, such as objects, animals, and God(s), have human traits (Epley, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007; Gray, Gray, & Wegner, 2007). What is perhaps more surprising is that humans conceive of other humans, and themselves, in nonhuman terms (Harris & Fiske, 2006; Haslam, 2006; Leyens et al., 2000). But history is rife with examples. World War II propaganda from both sides explicitly depicted the “enemy” as vermin of various kinds, and in the United States, Black people have often been derogated by associating them with apes (Goff, Eberhardt, Williams, & Jackson, 2008). In addition, media across the globe portray women quite literally as objects, often depicting just a body part or merging women’s bodies with consumer products (see Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). But what causes people to conceive of others, and themselves, as nonhuman?

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Dehumanization: A Threat and Solution to Terror Management, in P. Bain, J. Vaes & J. P. Leyens (Eds.), Humanness and Dehumanization, Psychology Press, p. 111-126