Of Mice and Men, and Objectified Women: A Terror Management Account of Infra-humanization

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This article offers terror management theory (TMT) as a conceptual lens through which the process of infrahumanization can be viewed. TMT suggests that people are threatened by the awareness of their mortal, animal nature, and that by emphasizing their symbolic, cultural—and hence, uniquely human—existence, they can help quell this threat. The article reviews empirical evidence demonstrating that reminders of mortality increase efforts to see the self and in-groups as more uniquely human. In addition, it is posited that, as an ironic consequence of defensive efforts to rid the self and certain others of any connection to animal nature, people are sometimes stripped of their human nature. The study presents evidence that the objectification, and self-objectification, of women can be viewed from this perspective and concludes that both emphasizing people’s uniquely human qualities and viewing them as objectified symbols can be understood as serving a terror management function.

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Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, v. 12, issue 6, 763-776