Dehumanizing the Lowest of the

  • Harris L
  • Fiske S
  • 337

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Abstract

Traditionally, prejudice has been conceptual- ized as simple animosity. The stereotype content model (SCM) shows that some prejudice is worse. The SCM pre- viously demonstrated separate stereotype dimensions of warmth (low-high) and competence (low-high), identifying four distinct out-group clusters. The SCM predicts that only extreme out-groups, groups that are both stereotyp- ically hostile andstereotypically incompetent (lowwarmth, low competence), such as addicts and the homeless, will be dehumanized. Prior studies show that the medial pre- frontal cortex (mPFC) is necessary for social cognition. Functional magnetic resonance imaging provided data for examining brain activations in 10 participants viewing 48 photographs of social groups and 12 participants viewing objects; each picture dependably represented one SCM quadrant. Analyses revealed mPFC activation to all social groups except extreme (low-low) out-groups, who espe- cially activated insula and amygdala, a pattern consistent with disgust, the emotion predicted by theSCM.No objects, though rated with the same emotions, activated themPFC. This neural evidence supports the prediction that extreme out-groups may be perceived as less than human, or de- humanized.

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Authors

  • Lasana T Harris

  • Susan T Fiske

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