Reducing Explicit Blatant Dehumanization by Correcting Exaggerated Meta-Perceptions
If explicitly, blatantly dehumanizing a group of people—overtly characterizing them as less than human—facilitates harming them, then reversing this process is paramount. Addressing dehumanization among American political partisans appears especially crucial, given that it has been linked to their anti-democratic hostility. Perhaps because of its overt nature, partisans recognize—and greatly exaggerate—the extent to which out-partisans explicitly, blatantly dehumanize them. Past research has found that when people perceive they are dehumanized by an outgroup (i.e., meta-dehumanization), they respond with reciprocal dehumanization. Therefore, we reasoned that partisans’ dehumanization could be reduced by correcting their exaggerated meta-dehumanization. Indeed, across three preregistered studies (N = 4,154), an intervention correcting American partisans’ exaggerated meta-dehumanization reduced their own dehumanization of out-partisans. This decreased dehumanization persisted at a 1-week follow-up and predicted downstream reductions in partisans’ anti-democratic hostility, suggesting that correcting exaggerated meta-dehumanization can durably mitigate the dark specter of dehumanization.
Landry, AP; Schooler, JW; Willer, R; Seli, P
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