Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Prejudice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prejudice. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Humans’ Bias Blind Spot and Its Societal Significance

Pronin, E., & Hazel, L. (2023).
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 0(0).


Human beings have a bias blind spot. We see bias all around us but sometimes not in ourselves. This asymmetry hinders self-knowledge and fuels interpersonal misunderstanding and conflict. It is rooted in cognitive mechanics differentiating self- and social perception as well as in self-esteem motives. It generalizes across social, cognitive, and behavioral biases; begins in childhood; and appears across cultures. People show a bias blind spot in high-stakes contexts, including investing, medicine, human resources, and law. Strategies for addressing the problem are described.


Bias-limiting procedures

When it comes to eliminating bias, attempts to overcome it via conscious effort and educational training are not ideal. A different strategy is worth considering, when possible: preventing people’s biases from having a chance to operate in the first place, by limiting their access to biasing information. Examples include conducting auditions behind a screen (discussed earlier) and blind review of journal submissions. If fully blocking access to potentially biasing information is not possible or carries more costs than benefits, another less stringent option is worth considering, that is, controlling when the information is presented so that potentially biasing information comes late, ideally after a tentative judgment is made (e.g., “sequential unmasking”; Dror, 2018; “temporary cloaking”; Kang, 2021).

Because of the BBS, people can be resistant to procedures like this that limit their access to biasing information (see Fig. 3). For example, forensics experts prefer consciously trying to avoid bias over being shielded from even irrelevant biasing information (Kukucka et al., 2017). When high school teachers and ensemble singers were asked to assess blinding procedures (in auditioning and grading), they opposed them more for their own group than for the other group and even more for themselves personally (Pronin et al., 2022). This opposition is consistent with experiments showing that people are unconcerned about the effects of biasing decision processes when it comes to their own decisions (Hansen et al., 2014). In those experiments, participants made judgments using a biasing decision procedure (e.g., judging the quality of paintings only after looking to see if someone famous painted them). They readily acknowledged that the procedure was biased, nonetheless made decisions that were biased by that procedure, and then insisted that their conclusions were objective. This unwarranted confidence is a barrier to the self-imposition of bias-reducing procedures. It suggests the need for adopting procedures like this at the policy level rather than counting on individuals or their organizations to do so.

A different bias-limiting procedure that may induce resistance for these same reasons, and that therefore may also benefit from institutional or policy-level implementation, involves precommitting to decision criteria (e.g., Norton et al., 2004; Uhlmann & Cohen, 2005). For example, the human resources officer who precommits to judging job applicants more on the basis of industry experience versus educational background cannot then change that emphasis after seeing that their favorite candidate has unusually impressive academic credentials. This logic is incorporated, for example, into the system of allocating donor organs in the United States, which has explicit and predetermined criteria for making those allocations in order to avoid the possibility of bias in this high-stakes arena. When decision makers are instructed to provide objective criteria for their decision not before making that decision but rather when providing it—that is, the more typical request made of them—this not only makes bias more likely but also, because of the BBS, may even leave decision makers more confident in their objectivity than if they had not been asked to provide those criteria at all.

Here's my brief summary:

The article discusses the concept of the bias blind spot, which refers to people's tendency to recognize bias in others more readily than in themselves. Studies have consistently shown that people rate themselves as less susceptible to various biases than the average person. The bias blind spot occurs even for well-known biases that people readily accept exist. This blind spot has important societal implications, as it impedes recognition of one's own biases. It also leads to assuming others are more biased than oneself, resulting in decreased trust. Overcoming the bias blind spot is challenging but important for issues from prejudice to politics. It requires actively considering one's own potential biases when making evaluations about oneself or others.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Chapter One - Moral inconsistency

Effron, D.A, & Helgason, B.A. 
Advances in Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 67, 2023, Pages 1-72


We review a program of research examining three questions. First, why is the morality of people's behavior inconsistent across time and situations? We point to people's ability to convince themselves they have a license to sin, and we demonstrate various ways people use their behavioral history and others—individuals, groups, and society—to feel licensed. Second, why are people's moral judgments of others' behavior inconsistent? We highlight three factors: motivation, imagination, and repetition. Third, when do people tolerate others who fail to practice what they preach? We argue that people only condemn others' inconsistency as hypocrisy if they think the others are enjoying an “undeserved moral benefit.” Altogether, this program of research suggests that people are surprisingly willing to enact and excuse inconsistency in their moral lives. We discuss how to reconcile this observation with the foundational social psychological principle that people hate inconsistency.


The benefits of moral inconsistency

The present chapter has focused on the negative consequences of moral inconsistency. We have highlighted how the factors that promote moral inconsistency can allow people to lie, cheat, express prejudice, and reduce their condemnation of others' morally suspect behaviors ranging from leaving the scene of an accident to spreading fake news. At the same time, people's apparent proclivity for moral inconsistency is not all bad.

One reason is that, in situations that pit competing moral values against each other, moral inconsistency may be unavoidable. For example, when a friend asks whether you like her unflattering new haircut, you must either say no (which would be inconsistent with your usual kind behavior) or yes (which would be inconsistent with your usual honest behavior; Levine, Roberts, & Cohen, 2020). If you discover corruption in your workplace, you might need to choose between blowing the whistle (which would be inconsistent with your typically loyal behavior toward the company) or staying silent (which would be inconsistent with your typically fair behavior; Dungan, Waytz, & Young, 2015; Waytz, Dungan, & Young, 2013).

Another reason is that people who strive for perfect moral consistency may incur steep costs. They may be derogated and shunned by others, who feel threatened and judged by these “do-gooders” (Howe & Monin, 2017; Minson & Monin, 2012; Monin, Sawyer, & Marquez, 2008; O’Connor & Monin, 2016). Or they may sacrifice themselves and loved ones more than they can afford, like the young social worker who consistently donated to charity until she and her partner were living on 6% of their already-modest income, or the couple who, wanting to consistently help children in need of a home, adopted 22 kids (MacFarquhar, 2015). In short, we may enjoy greater popularity and an easier life if we allow ourselves at least some moral inconsistency.

Finally, moral inconsistency can sometimes benefit society. Evolving moral beliefs about smoking (Rozin, 1999; Rozin & Singh, 1999) have led to considerable public health benefits. Stalemates in partisan conflict are hard to break if both sides rigidly refuse to change their judgments and behavior surrounding potent moral issues (Brandt, Wetherell, & Crawford, 2016). Same-sex marriage, women's sexual liberation, and racial desegregation required inconsistency in how people treated actions that were once considered wrong. In this way, moral inconsistency may be necessary for moral progress.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Mitigating welfare-related prejudice and partisanship among U.S. conservatives with moral reframing of a universal basic income policy

Thomas, C. C., Walton, G. M., et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 105, March 2023, 104424


Inequality and deep poverty have risen sharply in the US since the 1990s. Simultaneously, cash-based welfare policies have frayed, support for public assistance has fallen on the political right, and prejudice against recipients of welfare has remained high. Yet, in recent years Universal Basic Income (UBI) has gained traction, a policy proposing to give all citizens cash sufficient to meet basic needs with no strings attached. We hypothesized that UBI can mitigate the partisanship and prejudice that define the existing welfare paradigm in the US but that this potential depends critically on the narratives attached to it. Indeed, across three online experiments with US adults (total N = 1888), we found that communicating the novel policy features of UBI alone were not sufficient to achieve bipartisan support for UBI or overcome negative stereotyping of its recipients. However, when UBI was described as advancing the more conservative value of financial freedom, conservatives perceived the policy to be more aligned with their values and were less opposed to the policy (meta-analytic effect on policy support: d = 0.36 [95% CI: 0.27 to 0.46]). Extending the literatures on moral reframing and cultural match, we further find that this values-aligned policy narrative mitigated prejudice among conservatives, reducing negative welfare-related stereotyping of policy recipients (meta-analytic effect d = −0.27 [95% CI: −0.38 to −0.16]), while increasing affiliation with them. Together, these findings point to moral reframing as a promising means by which institutional narratives can be used to bridge partisan divides and reduce prejudice.


• Policies like Universal Basic Income (UBI) propose to mitigate poverty and inequality by giving all citizens cash

• A UBI policy narrative based in freedom most increased policy support and reduced prejudice among conservatives

• This narrative also achieved the highest perceived moral fit, or alignment with one’s values, among conservatives

• Moral reframing of policy communications may be an effective institutional lever for mitigating partisanship and prejudice


General discussion

Three experiments revealed that a values-based narrative of UBI, one grounded in the conservative value of economic freedom, can advance bipartisanship in support for UBI and simultaneously mitigate welfare-related prejudice among U.S. conservatives. While policy reforms often focus on changes to objective policy features, these studies suggest that the narratives attached to such features will meaningfully influence public attitudes towards both the policy and its recipients. In other words, the potential of policies like UBI to advance goals such as inequality reduction and prejudice mitigation may be limited if they fail to attend to the narratives that accompany them.

Here, we demonstrate the potential for policy narratives that elevate the moral foundations of those most opposed to the policy, U.S. conservatives in this case. Why might this narrative approach succeed? At a higher-order level, our findings suggests that inclusion begets inclusion: when conservatives felt that the policy recognized and reflected their own values, they were more likely to support the policy and express inclusive attitudes toward its recipients.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Motornomativity: How Social Norms Hide a Major Public Health Hazard

Walker, I., Tapp, A., & Davis, A.
(2022, December 14).


Decisions about motor transport, by individuals and policy-makers, show unconscious biases due to cultural assumptions about the role of private cars - a phenomenon we term motonormativity. To explore this claim, a national sample of 2157 UK adults rated, at random, a set of statements about driving (“People shouldn't drive in highly populated areas where other people have to breathe in the car fumes”) or a parallel set of statements with key words changed to shift context ("People shouldn't smoke in highly populated areas where other people have to breathe in the cigarette fumes"). Such context changes could radically alter responses (75% agreed with "People shouldn't smoke... " but only 17% agreed with "People shouldn't drive... "). We discuss how these biases systematically distort medical and policy decisions and give recommendations for how public policy and health professionals might begin to recognise and address these unconscious biases in their work.


Our survey showed that people can go from agreeing with a health or risk-related proposition to disagreeing with it simply depending on whether it is couched as a driving or non-driving issue. In the most dramatic case, survey respondents felt that obliging people to breathe toxic fumes went from being unacceptable to acceptable depending on whether the fumes came from cigarettes or motor vehicles. It is, objectively, nonsensical that the ethical and public health issues involved in forcing non-consenting people to inhale air-borne toxins should be judged differently depending on their source, but that is what happened here. It seems that normal judgement criteria can indeed be suspended in the specific context of motoring, as we suggested.

Obviously, we used questions in this study that we felt would stand a good chance of demonstrating a difference between how motoring and non-motoring issues were viewed. But choosing questions likely to reveal differences is not the same thing as stacking the deck. We gave the social bias every chance to reveal itself, but that could only happen because it was out there to be revealed. Prentice and Miller (1992) argue that the ease with which a behavioural phenomenon can be triggered is an index of its true magnitude. The ease with which effects appeared in this study was striking: in the final question the UK public went from 17% agreement to 75% agreement just by changing two words in the question whilst leaving its underlying principle unchanged.

Another example of a culturally acceptable (or ingrained) bias for harm. Call it "car blindness" or "motornormativity."

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Helping the ingroup versus harming the outgroup: Evidence from morality-based groups

Grigoryan, L, Seo, S, Simunovic, D, & Hoffman, W.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 105, March 2023, 104436


The discrepancy between ingroup favoritism and outgroup hostility is well established in social psychology. Under which conditions does “ingroup love” turn into “outgroup hate”? Studies with natural groups suggest that when group membership is based on (dis)similarity of moral beliefs, people are willing to not only help the ingroup, but also harm the outgroup. The key limitation of these studies is that the use of natural groups confounds the effects of shared morality with the history of intergroup relations. We tested the effect of morality-based group membership on intergroup behavior using artificial groups that help disentangling these effects. We used the recently developed Intergroup Parochial and Universal Cooperation (IPUC) game which differentiates between behavioral options of weak parochialism (helping the ingroup), strong parochialism (harming the outgroup), universal cooperation (helping both groups), and egoism (profiting individually). In three preregistered experiments, we find that morality-based groups exhibit less egoism and more universal cooperation than non-morality-based groups. We also find some evidence of stronger ingroup favoritism in morality-based groups, but no evidence of stronger outgroup hostility. Stronger ingroup favoritism in morality-based groups is driven by expectations from the ingroup, but not the outgroup. These findings contradict earlier evidence from natural groups and suggest that (dis)similarity of moral beliefs is not sufficient to cross the boundary between “ingroup love” and “outgroup hate”.

General discussion

When does “ingroup love” turn into “outgroup hate”? Previous studies conducted on natural groups suggest that centrality of morality to the group’s identity is one such condition: morality-based groups showed more hostility towards outgroups than non-morality-based groups (Parker & Janoff-Bulman, 2013; Weisel & Böhm, 2015). We set out to test this hypothesis in a minimal group setting, using the recently developed Intergroup Parochial and Universal Cooperation (IPUC) game.  Across three pre-registered studies, we found no evidence that morality-based groups show more hostility towards outgroups than non-morality-based groups. Instead, morality-based groups exhibited less egoism and more universal cooperation (helping both the ingroup and the outgroup) than non-morality-based groups. This finding is consistent with earlier research showing that salience of morality makes people more cooperative (Capraro et al., 2019). Importantly, our morality manipulation was not specific to any pro-cooperation moralnorm. Simply asking participants to think about the criteria they use to judge what is right and what is wrong was enough to increase universal cooperation.

Our findings are inconsistent with research showing stronger outgroup hostility in morality-based groups (Parker & Janoff-Bulman, 2013; Weisel & Böhm, 2015). The key difference between the set of studies presented here and the earlier studies that find outgroup hostility in morality-based groups is the use of natural groups in the latter. What potential confounding variables might account for the emergence of outgroup hostility in natural groups?

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Dangerous as the Plague

Samuel Huneke
The Baffler
Originally posted 23 JUN 22

Here is an excerpt:

There is not enough space here to enumerate all of the similarities and differences between National Socialism and today’s right, but the place of Christianity in each movement is instructive. The churches were always on tenuous terms at best with Hitler’s state. Many Nazi leaders were openly hostile to Christianity and to the “traditional” family. Homosexuality posed a threat to Nazism not in moral terms, but rather in social and political terms, threatening to undermine its homosocial order. In stark contrast, the American right today remains in thrall to white Christian nationalism, which openly seeks to impose its own version of morality on the nation. The threat queerness poses to this version of patriarchal Christianity, coupled with broader anxieties about loss of social status, is what appears to motivate the new right’s transphobia and homophobia.

The endurance of these tropes also highlights the limits of the professionalized LGBTQ political movement in this country, which has prioritized visibility and assimilation—eschewing more revolutionary strategies that would encompass the needs of the most marginalized. Groups like the Human Rights Campaign have been successful up to a point, but their strategies were always predicated on the notion that if queer people were visible and showed that they weren’t actually that different, prejudice would seep away. Because its aim was assimilation, this tactic fundamentally upheld the division between normal and abnormal on which animus rests. Instead of contesting that very division, it sought to put certain queer people on the “right” side of it. In this way, it also misunderstood hatred as a product of ignorance rather than a political strategy or an expression of sublimated anxieties.

Now animus against queer people—especially trans people—is back with a vengeance. From the conspiracy-addled world of QAnon, in which a shadowy cabal of pedophiles, juiced on the blood of children, runs the world, to the mendacity of trans-exclusionary radical feminists (or TERFs), a growing segment of the population seems willing to entertain the notion that lesbians, gay men, and trans people are “recruiting” children. The bestseller Irreversible Damage, published in 2020 and reaching audiences well beyond the fringe right, insisted that girls were being seduced by a “transgender craze” that it termed a “contagion.” Just before Pride month, U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has embraced the rhetoric of “grooming,” predicted that in “four or five generations, no one will be straight anymore.”

Saturday, June 11, 2022

No convincing evidence outgroups are denied uniquely human characteristics: Distinguishing intergroup preference from trait-based dehumanization

F. E. Enock, J. C. Flavell. et al. (2021).
Volume 212, July 2021, 104682


According to the dual model, outgroup members can be dehumanized by being thought to possess uniquely and characteristically human traits to a lesser extent than ingroup members. However, previous research on this topic has tended to investigate the attribution of human traits that are socially desirable in nature such as warmth, civility and rationality. As a result, it has not yet been possible to determine whether this form of dehumanization is distinct from intergroup preference and stereotyping. We first establish that participants associate undesirable (e.g., corrupt, jealous) as well as desirable (e.g., open-minded, generous) traits with humans. We then go on to show that participants tend to attribute desirable human traits more strongly to ingroup members but undesirable human traits more strongly to outgroup members. This pattern holds across three different intergroup contexts for which dehumanization effects have previously been reported: political opponents, immigrants and criminals. Taken together, these studies cast doubt on the claim that a trait-based account of representing others as ‘less human’ holds value in the study of intergroup bias.


•  The dual model predicts outgroups are attributed human traits to a lesser extent.

•  To date, predominantly desirable traits have been investigated, creating a confound.

•  We test attributions of desirable and undesirable human traits to social groups.

•  Attributions of undesirable human traits were stronger for outgroups than ingroups.

•  We find no support for the predictions of the dual model of dehumanization.

From the General Discussion

The dual model argues that there are two sense of humanness: human uniqueness and human nature. Uniquely human traits can be summarised as civility, refinement, moral sensibility, rationality, and maturity. Human nature traits can be summarised as emotional responsiveness, interpersonal warmth, cognitive openness, agency, and depth (Haslam, 2006). However, the traits that supposedly characterise ‘humanness’ within this model are broadly socially desirable (Over, 2020a; Over, 2020b). We showed that people also associate some undesirable traits with the concept ‘human’. As well as considering humans to be refined and cultured, people also consider humans to be corrupt, selfish and cruel.

Results from our pretest provided us with grounds for re-examining predictions made by the dual model of dehumanization about the nature of intergroup bias in trait attributions. The dual model account holds that lesser attribution of human specific traits to outgroup members represents a psychological process of dehumanization that is separable from ingroup preference. However, as the human specific attributes summarised by the model are positive and socially desirable, it is possible that previous findings are better explained in terms of ingroup preference, the process of attributing positive qualities to ingroup members to a greater extent than to outgroup members.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Bigotry and the human–animal divide: (Dis)belief in human evolution and bigoted attitudes across different cultures

Syropoulos, S., Lifshin, U., et al. (2022). 
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Advance online publication. 


The current investigation tested if people’s basic belief in the notion that human beings have developed from other animals (i.e., belief in evolution) can predict human-to-human prejudice and intergroup hostility. Using data from the American General Social Survey and Pew Research Center (Studies 1–4), and from three online samples (Studies 5, 7, 8) we tested this hypothesis across 45 countries, in diverse populations and religious settings, across time, in nationally representative data (N = 60,703), and with more comprehensive measures in online crowdsourced data (N = 2,846). Supporting the hypothesis, low belief in human evolution was associated with higher levels of prejudice, racist attitudes, and support for discriminatory behaviors against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ), Blacks, and immigrants in the United States (Study 1), with higher ingroup biases, prejudicial attitudes toward outgroups, and less support for conflict resolution in samples collected from 19 Eastern European countries (Study 2), 25 Muslim countries (Study 3), and Israel (Study 4). Further, among Americans, lower belief in evolution was associated with greater prejudice and militaristic attitudes toward political outgroups (Study 5). Finally, perceived similarity to animals (a construct distinct from belief in evolution, Study 6) partially mediated the link between belief in evolution and prejudice (Studies 7 and 8), even when controlling for religious beliefs, political views, and other demographic variables, and were also observed for nondominant groups (i.e., religious and racial minorities). Overall, these findings highlight the importance of belief in human evolution as a potentially key individual-difference variable predicting racism and prejudice.

General Discussion 

The current set of studies tested the hypothesis that believing that human beings evolved from animals, relates to (decreased) human-to-human prejudice and discrimination and negative attitudes towards various outgroups. In Study 1, we tested and found support for this hypothesis using data from the American GSS (Smith et al., 1972-2018). Across all the years in which a measure of belief in human evolution was included, it was consistently associated with less prejudice, less racist attitudes and decreased support for discriminatory behaviors against blacks and other minorities among white and presumably primarily heterosexual Americans. These results held when controlling for measures of religiosity, level of education and political views, and were not explained by other measures related to common knowledge, or attitudes towards animal rights (see Supplementary Materials). In Studies 2-4, we further tested if belief in human evolution predicted ingroup bias and negative attitudes towards outgroups in nationally representative samples of 45 countries obtained from the Pew Research Center, including data collected from Eastern Europe (19 countries), Muslim countries (25 countries), and Israel. In support of the hypothesis, belief in human evolution was mostly-consistently associated with decreased discrimination towards outgroups, a finding that held even after controlling for key demographic characteristics, such as religiosity and conservative political beliefs. In Study 4, Israelis who believe in human evolution were more likely to support a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict compared to those did not believe.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

The “Equal-Opportunity Jerk” Defense: Rudeness Can Obfuscate Gender Bias

Belmi, P., Jun, S., & Adams, G. S. (2022). 
Psychological Science, 33(3), 397–411.


To address sexism, people must first recognize it. In this research, we identified a barrier that makes sexism hard to recognize: rudeness toward men. We found that observers judge a sexist perpetrator as less sexist if he is rude toward men. This occurs because rudeness toward men creates the illusion of gender blindness. We documented this phenomenon in five preregistered studies consisting of online adult participants and adult students from professional schools (total N = 4,663). These attributions are problematic because sexism and rudeness are not mutually exclusive. Men who hold sexist beliefs about women can be—and often are—rude toward other men. These attributions also discourage observers from holding perpetrators accountable for gender bias. Thus, rudeness toward men gives sexist perpetrators plausible deniability. It protects them and prevents the first perceptual step necessary to address sexism.

Statement of Relevance

Sexism can be challenging to identify and eventually root out. However, we contend that even blatant forms of sexism are sometimes difficult to recognize. In this research, we demonstrated how rudeness can makes blatant forms of sexism harder to identify. We found that a man does not seem sexist if he treats everyone—both men and women—poorly. This is problematic because sexism and rudeness are not mutually exclusive.  Men who are sexist can be—and often are—rude toward other men. We found that rudeness obscures the recognition of sexism by creating the perception that the sexist perpetrator does not
notice or pay attention to gender when dealing with other people. This misleads observers into thinking that an intervention such as gender-bias training is less necessary. Rudeness can therefore protect sexist perpetrators, making their prejudice harder to recognize and correct.

From the Discussion

It has been noted that overtly discriminatory conduct—characterized by blatant antipathy, antiquated
beliefs about women, and endorsement of pejorative stereotypes—is becoming less common because of
sweeping changes in antidiscrimination laws, practices, and ideologies in the United States (Brief et al., 1997; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1998; Swim et al., 1995). However, blatant, unambiguous, and obvious forms of sexist conduct continue to exist in society (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1998) and within organizations in particular (e.g., Cortina, 2008). Our findings suggest that one reason for their persistence is that observers may not recognize that everyday acts of rudeness can serve as a convenient mask for bias against women (Cortina, 2008). This has an important practical implication: When a sexist manager is rude toward men, it may appear as though he is not sexist. Thus, women victimized by his behavior will have a more difficult time proving that he is sexist. Rudeness can therefore protect perpetrators.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Dehumanization: trends, insights, and challenges

N. S. Kteily and A. P. Landry
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Available online 15 January 2022


Despite our many differences, one superordinate category we all belong to is ‘humans’. To strip away or overlook others’ humanity, then, is to mark them as ‘other’ and, typically, ‘less than’. We review growing evidence revealing how and why we subtly disregard the humanity of those around us. We then highlight new research suggesting that we continue to blatantly dehumanize certain groups, overtly likening them to animals, with important implications for intergroup hostility. We discuss advances in understanding the experience of being dehumanized and novel interventions to mitigate dehumanization, address the conceptual boundaries of dehumanization, and consider recent accounts challenging the importance of dehumanization and its role in intergroup violence. Finally, we present an agenda of outstanding questions to propel dehumanization research forward.


To deny or overlook the humanity of others is to exclude them from one of the core category memberships that all people share. Still, research suggests that individuals engage in dehumanization surprisingly often, both in subtle ways and, in certain contexts, by blatantly associating other groups with ‘lower’ animals.

We review evidence highlighting the plethora of distinct ways in which we dehumanize, the consequences dehumanization imposes on its targets, and intervention efforts to alleviate dehumanization.

We provide a framework to think about different operationalizations of dehumanization and consider how researchers’ definitions of dehumanization may shape the conclusions they draw about key questions such as the association between dehumanization and violence.

We address a number of theoretical challenges to dehumanization research and lay out several important questions dehumanization researchers need to address in order to propel the field further forward.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Investigating the role of group-based morality in extreme behavioral expressions of prejudice

Hoover, J., Atari, M., et al. 
Nat Commun 12, 4585 (2021). 


Understanding motivations underlying acts of hatred are essential for developing strategies to prevent such extreme behavioral expressions of prejudice (EBEPs) against marginalized groups. In this work, we investigate the motivations underlying EBEPs as a function of moral values. Specifically, we propose EBEPs may often be best understood as morally motivated behaviors grounded in people’s moral values and perceptions of moral violations. As evidence, we report five studies that integrate spatial modeling and experimental methods to investigate the relationship between moral values and EBEPs. Our results, from these U.S. based studies, suggest that moral values oriented around group preservation are predictive of the county-level prevalence of hate groups and associated with the belief that extreme behavioral expressions of prejudice against marginalized groups are justified. Additional analyses suggest that the association between group-based moral values and EBEPs against outgroups can be partly explained by the belief that these groups have done something morally wrong.

From the Discussion

Notably, Study 5 provided tentative evidence that binding values may be a particularly important risk factor for the perceived justification of EBEPs. Participants who were experimentally manipulated to believe an outgroup had done something immoral were more likely to perceive acts of hate against that outgroup as justified when they felt that the outgroup’s behavior was more morally wrong. However, this association between PMW and the justification of hate acts was strongly moderated by people’s binding values, but not by their individualizing values. Ultimately, comparing people high on binding values to people high on individualizing values, we found that the average causal mediation effect in the domain of binding values was more than six times the average causal mediation effect in the domain of individualizing values. In other words, our results suggest that if two people see an outgroup’s binding values violation as equally morally wrong, but one of them has higher binding values, the person with higher binding values will see EBEPs against the outgroup as more justified. However, no such difference was observed in the domain of individualizing values.

Accordingly, our results suggest that people who attribute moral violations to an outgroup may be at higher risk for justifying, or perhaps even expressing, extreme prejudice toward outgroups; however, our results also suggest that people who prioritize the binding values may be particularly susceptible to this dynamic when they perceive a violation of ingroup loyalty, respect for authority, and physical or spiritual purity. In this sense, our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that acts of hate—a class of behaviors of which many have received their own special legal designation as particularly heinous crimes4—are partly motivated by individuals’ moral beliefs. This view is well-grounded in current understandings of the relationship between morality and acts of extremism or violence.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Don't ask where I'm from, ask where I'm a local - Taiye Selasi

When someone asks you where you're from … do you sometimes not know how to answer? Writer Taiye Selasi speaks on behalf of "multi-local" people, who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. "How can I come from a country?" she asks. "How can a human being come from a concept?"

Monday, January 3, 2022

Systemic Considerations in Child Development and the Pursuit of Racial Equality in the United States

Perry, S., Skinner-Dorkenoo, A. L., 
Wages, J., & Abaied, J. L. (2021, October 8). 


In this commentary on Lewis’ (2021) article in Psychological Inquiry, we expand on ways that both systemic and interpersonal contexts contribute to and uphold racial inequalities, with a particular focus on research on child development and socialization. We also discuss the potential roadblocks that may undermine the effectiveness of Lewis’ (2021) recommended strategy of relying on experts as a driving force for change. We conclude by proposing additional strategies for pursuing racial equality that may increase the impact of experts, such as starting anti-racist socialization early in development, family-level interventions, and teaching people about racial injustices and their connections to systemic racism.

From the Conclusion

Ultimately, the expert (Myrdal) concluded that the problem was White people and how they think about and structure society. Despite the immense popularity of his book among the American public and the fact that it did motivate some policy change (Brown v. Board of Education, Warren& Supreme Court of The United States, 1953), many of the same issues persist to this day. As such, we argue that, although relying on experts may be an appealing recommendation, history suggests that our efforts to reduce racial inequality in the U.S. will require substantial, widespread investment from White U.S. residents in order for real change to occur. Based on the literature reviewed here, significant barriers to such investment remain, many of which begin in early childhood. Beyond pursuing policies that promote structural equality on the advice of experts in ways that do not trigger backlash, we should support policies that educate the public—with a special emphasis on childhood socialization—on the history of systemic racism and the past and continued intentional efforts to create and maintain racial inequalities. 

Building upon recommendations offered by Lewis, we also argue that we need to move the societal bar from simply being non-racist, to being actively anti-racist. As a society, we need to recalibrate our norms, such that passively going along with systemic racism will no longer be acceptable (Tatum, 2017). In the summer of 2020, after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, many organizations released statements in support of the Black Lives Movement, confronting systemic racism, and increasing social justice (Nguyen, 2020). But one question that many posed was whether these organizations and institutions were genuinely committed to tackling systemic racism, or if their acts were performative (Duarte, 2020). If groups, organizations, and institutions want to claim that they are committed to anti-racism, then they should be held accountable for these claims and provide concrete evidence of their efforts to dismantle the pervasive system of racial oppression. In addition to this, we recommend a greater investment in educating the public on the history of systemic racism (particularly with children; such as the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum implemented in the state of California), prompting White parents to actively be anti-racist and teach their children to do the same, and equitable structural policies that facilitate residential and school racial integration to increase quality interracial contact.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Biological Essentialism Correlates with (But Doesn’t Cause?) Intergroup Bias

Bailey, A., & Knobe, J. 
(2021, September 17).


People with biological essentialist beliefs about social groups also tend to endorse biased beliefs about individuals in those groups, including stereotypes, prejudices, and intensified emphasis on the group. These correlations could be due to biological essentialism causing bias, and some experimental studies support this causal direction. Given this prior work, we expected to find that biological essentialism would lead to increased bias compared to a control condition and set out to extend this prior work in a new direction (regarding “value-based” essentialism). But although the manipulation affected essentialist beliefs and essentialist beliefs were correlated with stereotyping (Studies 1, 2a, and 2b), prejudice (Studies 2a), and group emphasis (Study 3), there was no evidence that biological essentialism caused these outcomes. Given these findings, our initial research question became moot, and the present work focuses on reexamining the relationship between essentialism and bias. We discuss possible moderators, reverse causation, and third variables.

General Discussion

The present studies examined the relationship between biological essentialism and intergroup bias. As in prior work, we found that essentialist beliefs were correlated positively with stereotyping, including negative stereotyping, as well as group boundary intensification.  This positive relationship was found for essentialist thinking more generally (Studies 1, 2a, 2b, and 3) as well as specific beliefs in a biological essence (Studies 1, 2a, and 3). (New to this research, we also found similar positive correlations with beliefs in a value-based essence.) The internal meta-analysis for stereotyping confirmed a small but consistent positive relationship. Findings for prejudice were more mixed across studies consistent with more mixed findings in the prior literature even for correlational effects, but the internal meta-analysis indicated a small relationship between greater biological essentialism and less negative feelings toward the group(as in, e.g., Haslam & Levy, 2006, but see, Chen & Ratliff, 2018). 

Before conducting this research and based on the previous literature, we assumed that these correlational relationships would be due to essentialism causing intergroup bias. But although our experimental manipulations worked as designed to shift essentialist beliefs, there was no evidence that biological essentialism caused stereotyping, prejudice, or group boundary intensification.  The present studies thus suggest that a straightforward causal effect of essentialism on intergroup bias may be weaker or more complex than often described.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

How Disgust Affects Social Judgments

Inbar, Y., & Pizarro, D.
(2021, September 7). 


The emotion of disgust has been claimed to affect a diverse array of social judgments, including moral condemnation, inter-group prejudice, political ideology, and much more. We attempt to make sense of this large and varied literature by reviewing the theory and research on how and why disgust influences these judgments. We first describe two very different perspectives adopted by researchers on why disgust should affect social judgment. The first is the pathogen-avoidance account, which sees the relationship between disgust and judgment as resulting from disgust’s evolved function as a pathogen-avoidance mechanism. The second is the extended disgust account, which posits that disgust functions much more broadly to address a range of other threats and challenges. We then review the empirical evidence to assess how well it supports each of these perspectives, arguing that there is more support for the pathogen-avoidance account than the extended account. We conclude with some testable empirical predictions that can better distinguish between these two perspectives.


We have described two very different perspectives on disgust that posit very different explanations for its role in social judgments. In our view, the evidence currently supports the pathogen-avoidance account over the extended-disgust alternative, but the question is best settled by future research explicitly designed to differentiate the two perspectives.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Intergroup preference, not dehumanization, explains social biases in emotion attribution

F. Enoch, S. P. Tipper, & H. Over
Volume 216, November 2021, 104865


Psychological models can only help improve intergroup relations if they accurately characterise the mechanisms underlying social biases. The claim that outgroups suffer dehumanization is near ubiquitous in the social sciences. We challenge the most prominent psychological model of dehumanization - infrahumanization theory - which holds outgroup members are subtly dehumanized by being denied human emotions. We examine the theory across seven intergroup contexts in thirteen pre-registered and highly powered experiments (N = 1690). We find outgroup members are not denied uniquely human emotions relative to ingroup members. Rather, they are ascribed prosocial emotions to a lesser extent but antisocial emotions to a greater extent. Apparent evidence for infrahumanization is better explained by ingroup preference, outgroup derogation and stereotyping. Infrahumanization theory may obscure more than it reveals about intergroup bias.


• Infrahumanization theory predicts outgroups are often denied uniquely human emotions.

• However, to date, antisocial uniquely human emotions have not been investigated.

• We test attributions of prosocial and antisocial emotions to social groups.

• Attributions of antisocial human emotions were stronger for outgroups than ingroups.

• We find no support for the predictions of infrahumanization theory.

From the General Discussion

Our results dovetail with recent empirical work that challenges the predictions made by Haslam's (2006) dual model of dehumanization (Enock et al., 2021). This research showed that when undesirable human-specific characteristics (such as ‘corrupt’ and ‘selfish’) are included in overall measures of humanness, there is no evidence for either animalistic or mechanistic dehumanization of outgroups as characterised by the dual model. Rather, desirable human qualities are more strongly attributed to ingroup members and undesirable human qualities to outgroup members. The present work extends these findings by further demonstrating the importance of considering sociality confounds when measuring psychological processes of ‘dehumanization’, this time through another highly prominent framework within the field.

During the review process, it was put to us that because dimensions of valence and sociality correlate highly in our pretest, the two constructs are “indistinguishable”, thus rendering our critique obsolete. We believe this represents a misunderstanding. Height and weight are strongly positively correlated, yet they are distinct constructs. Similarly, even though emotions that are generally perceived as prosocial may also perceived as positive to experience, and emotions that are generally perceived as antisocial may also be perceived as negative to experience, the two constructs are clearly conceptually distinct. While sadness is negative to experience, it is not inherently antisocial in character. Schadenfreude on the other hand is, by definition, positive to experience but antisocial in character.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Are Conspiracy Theories Harmless?

Douglas, K. M.
The Spanish Journal of Psychology
(2021). 24, e13, 1-7.


In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the consequences of conspiracy theories and the COVID–19 pandemic raised this interest to another level. In this article, I will outline what we know about the consequences of conspiracy theories for individuals, groups, and society, arguing that they are certainly not harmless. In particular, research suggests that conspiracy theories are associated with political apathy, support for non-normative political action, climate denial, vaccine refusal, prejudice, crime, violence, disengagement in the workplace, and reluctance to adhere to COVID–19 recommendations. In this article, I will also discuss the challenges of dealing with the negative consequences of conspiracy theories, which present some opportunities for future research.


Conspiracy theories are associated with a range of negative consequences for political engagement, political behavior, climate engagement, trust in science, vaccine uptake, civic behavior, work-related behavior, inter-group relations, and more recently the COVID-19 response.  A significant challenge for researchers is to learn how to deal with conspiracy theories and their associated effects.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Mapping Principal Dimensions of Prejudice in the United States

R. Bergh & M. J. Brandt


Research  is often guided  by  maps  of  elementary  dimensions, such  as core  traits, foundations  of  morality,  and principal stereotype  dimensions. Yet  there is no comprehensive  map of prejudice dimensions. A major  limiter of  developing  a prejudice map is the ad hoc sampling of target groups. We used a broad and largely theory-agnostic  selection  of  groups  to  derive  a  map  of  principal dimensions of expressed prejudice in contemporary American society. Across a   series   of exploratory and confirmatory studies, we found three principal factors: Prejudice against marginalized groups, prejudice against privileged/conservative groups, and prejudice   against unconventional groups(with some inverse loadings for conservative groups). We documented distinct correlates foreach factor, in terms of social    identifications, perceived    threats, personality, and    behavioral manifestations. We discuss how the current map integrates several lines of research, and point to novel and underexplored insights about prejudice.


Concluding Remarks

Identifying distinct, broad domains of prejudice is important for the same reason as differentiating bacteria and viruses. While diseases may require very specific treatments, it is still helpful to know which broad category they fall in. Virtually all prejudice interventions to date are based on generic methods for changing mindsets based on “us” versus “them” (Paluck & Green, 2009). While value-based prejudice might fit with this kind of thinking (Cikara et al., 2017), that seems more questionable for biases based on status and power differences (Bergh et al., 2016).  For that reason, it would seem relevant to outline basic kinds of prejudice, and here we propose that there are three such factors, at least in the American context: Prejudice against privileged/conservative groups, prejudice against marginalized groups, and prejudice expressed toward either conventional or unconventional groups(inversely related).

With this research, we are not challenging research programs aimed to identify specific explanations for specific group evaluations (e.g., Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005; Mackie et al., 2000; Mackie & Smith, 2015). Yet, we believe it is important to also recognize that there are–in addition –clear and broad commonalities between prejudices toward different groups. Studying racism, sexism, and ageism as isolated phenomena, for instance, is missing a bigger picture–especially when the common features account for more than half of the individual variability in these attitudes (e.g., Bergh et al., 2012; Ekehammar & Akrami, 2003). In the current studies, we also showed that such commonalities are associated with broad patterns of behaviors: Those who were prejudiced against marginalized and unconventional groups were less likely to donate to in general, regardless if charity would benefit a conservative, unconventional or marginalized group cause. In other words, people who are generally prejudiced in the classic sense seem more self-serving (versus prosocial) in a fairly broad sense. Such findings are clearly complementary to specific, emotion-driven biases for understanding human behavior.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Blatant dehumanization in the mind's eye: Prevalent even among those who explicitly reject it?

Petsko, C. D., Lei, R., Kunst, J. R., & others
(2020, August 5).


Research suggests that some people, particularly those on the political right, have a tendency to blatantly dehumanize low-status groups. However, these findings have largely relied on self-report measures, which are notoriously subject to social desirability concerns. To better understand just how widely blatant forms of intergroup dehumanization might extend, the present paper leverages an unobtrusive, data-driven perceptual task to examine how U.S. respondents mentally represent ‘Americans’ vs. ‘Arabs’ (a low-status group in the U.S. that is often explicitly targeted with blatant dehumanization). Data from two reverse-correlation experiments (original N = 108; pre-registered replication N = 336) and seven rating studies (N = 2,301) suggest that U.S. respondents’ mental representations of Arabs are significantly more dehumanizing than their representations of Americans. Furthermore, analyses indicate that this phenomenon is not reducible to a general tendency for our sample to mentally represent Arabs more negatively than Americans. Finally, these findings reveal that blatantly dehumanizing representations of Arabs can be just as prevalent among individuals exhibiting low levels of explicit dehumanization (e.g., liberals) as among individuals exhibiting high levels of explicit dehumanization (e.g., conservatives)—a phenomenon into which exploratory analyses suggest liberals may have only limited awareness. Taken together, these results suggest that blatant dehumanization may be more widespread than previously recognized, and that it can persist even in the minds of those who explicitly reject it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Prejudiced and unaware of it: Evidence for the Dunning-Kruger model in the domains of racism and sexism

K. West and A. A. Eaton
Personality and Individual Differences
Volume 146, 1 August 2019, Pages 111-119


Prior research, and high-prolife contemporary examples, show that individuals tend to underestimate their own levels of bias. This underestimation is partially explained by motivational factors. However, (meta-) cognitive factors may also be involved. Conceptualising contemporary egalitarianism as type of skill or competence, this research proposed that egalitarianism should conform to the Dunning-Kruger model. That is, individuals should overestimate their own ability, and this overestimation should be strongest in the least competent individuals. Furthermore, training should improve metacognition and reduce this overestimation. Two studies on racism (N = 148), and sexism (N = 159) partially supported these hypotheses. In line with the Dunning-Kruger model, participants overestimated their levels of racial and gender-based egalitarianism, and this pattern was strongest among the most prejudiced participants. However, diversity training did not affect participants' overestimation of their egalitarianism. Implications for contemporary prejudice, and prejudice-reducing strategies are discussed.



For many reasons, contemporary discussions of prejudice can be quite acrimonious. Members of socially advantaged groups may find such discussions difficult, unpleasant, or threatening Apfelbaum, Pauker, Ambady, Sommers, & Norton, 2008; Dover, Major, & Kaiser, 2016; Norton et al., 2006). Political divisions may lead members of both advantaged and disadvantaged groups to attribute overly negative motivations to the other group (Goff et al., 2014; Reeder, 2005; Taber, Brook, & Franklin, 2006). Motivation certainly forms an important part of the picture. However, this research suggests that, even if such motivational considerations were accounted for, there may be important cognitive hindrances to understanding and reducing prejudice that would have to be addressed. In line with the Dunning-Kruger model, this research found that very prejudiced individuals (i.e., those low in egalitarianism) may be genuinely unaware of their shortcomings because they lack the meta-cognition necessary to perceive them. It is thus possible that some solutions to contemporary prejudice may rely less on motivation and more on education.

The research is here.