Dehumanization: Approaches to Indirect Prejudice



Objective. The presented review aims to describe and critically analyze the two most popular approaches to understanding and operationalizing the concepts of “humanity” and “dehumanization” (Infrahumanization theory and Two-dimensional model of humanness). Background. The studies of prejudice has identified two key problems. The first problem is associated with the limitations of existing theories in understanding the nature of prejudices, and the second — with a low efficiency of assessing blatant prejudice since an increasing spread of egalitarian attitudes in the world changes the intergroup relations and contributes to a transformation of explicit prejudices into indirect forms. The theories and models of dehumanization has become the response to these problems since they offer a new conceptual framework for the analysis of intergroup and interpersonal relationships, and new methods for assessing indirect prejudice that are independent of a social desirability. Conclusions. The results of a theoretical analysis showed that in psychological studies, “humanity” is operationalized either through the unique human emotions and traits, the negation of which leads to the association between certain individuals or groups with animals and the emergence of animalistic dehumanization, or through a description of the “human” prototype, the discrepancy to which is associated with mechanistic dehumanization. Animalistic dehumanization is more common in the context of intergroup relations, and mechanistic dehumanization is more related to the processes of self-perception. Despite the contradictions between different approaches to understanding humanity and dehumanization, as well as some methodological problems within each of them, dehumanization is recognized as an important phenomenon which significantly enriches psychological knowledge and understanding of a process of social cognition and interaction.

General Information

Keywords: dehumanization, prejudice, emotions, groups

Journal rubric: Theoretical Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by RFBR, project number 19-113-50158.

For citation: Agadullina E.R. Dehumanization: Approaches to Indirect Prejudice. Sotsial'naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social Psychology and Society, 2021. Vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 5–22. DOI: 10.17759/sps.2021120201. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)



  1. Agadullina E.R., Gulevich O.A., Terskova M.A. Primary and secondary emotions as an instrument to measure implicit prejudice // Research Paper No. WP BRP 110/PSY/2019. 2019. URL: https://
  2. Bain P. The structure and content of the human category, and its implications for understanding dehumanization // Humanness and Dehumanization / In P.G. Bain, J. Vaes, J. Leyens (Eds.). Routledge, 2014. P. 227—255.
  3. Bain P., Vaes J., Kashima Y., Haslam N., Guan Y. Folk conceptions of humanness: Beliefs about distinctive and core human characteristics in Australia, Italy, and China // Journal of Cross- Cultural Psychology. 2012. Vol. 43. № 1. P. 53—58. DOI:10.1177/0022022111419029
  4. Bandura A., Barbaranelli C., Caprara G.V. Mechanisms of moral disengagement in the exercise of moral agency // Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1996. Vol. 71. № 2. P. 364—374. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.71.2.364
  5. Bastian B., Haslam N. Excluded from humanity: The dehumanizing effects of social ostracism // Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2010. Vol. 46. № 1. P. 107—113. DOI:10.1016/j. jesp.2009.06.022
  6. Bastian B., Laham S.M., Wilson S., Haslam N., Koval P. Blaming, praising, and protecting our humanity: The implications of everyday dehumanization for judgments of moral status // British Journal of Social Psychology. 2011. Vol. 50. № 3. P. 469—483. DOI:10.1348/014466610X521383
  7. Baumeister R.F., Bratslavsky E., Finkenauer C., Vohs K.D. Bad is stronger than good // Review of General Psychology. 2001. Vol. 5. № 4. P. 323—370. DOI:10.1108/LODJ-09-2014-0191
  8. Beatson R., Loughnan S., Halloran M. Attitudes toward animals: The effect of priming thoughts of human-animal similarities and mortality salience on the evaluation of companion animals // Society and Animals. 2009. Vol. 17. № 1. P. 72—89. DOI:10.1163/156853009X393774
  9. Betancor Rodríguez V., Ariño Mateo E., Rodríguez-Pérez A., Rodriguez N.D. Do they feel the same as us? The infrahumanization of individuals with Down syndrome // Psicothema. 2016. Vol. 28. № 3. P. 311—317. DOI:10.7334/psicothema2016.10
  10. Boudjemadi V., Demoulin S., Bastart J. Animalistic dehumanization of older people by younger ones: Variations of humanness perceptions as a function of a target’s age // Psychology and Aging. 2017. Vol. 32. № 3. P. 293—306. DOI:10.1037/pag0000161
  11. Brewer M.B. The psychology of prejudice: Ingroup love or outgroup hate? // Journal of Social Issues. 1999. Vol. 55. № 3. P. 429—444. DOI:10.1111/0022-4537.00126
  12. Buckels E.E., Trapnell P.D. Disgust facilitates outgroup dehumanization // Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. 2013. Vol. 16. № 6. P. 771—780. DOI:10.1177/1368430212471738
  13. Capozza D., Andrighetto L., Di Bernardo G.A., Falvo R. Does status affect intergroup perceptions of humanity? // Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2012. Vol. 15. № 3. P. 363—377. DOI:10.1177/1368430211426733
  14. Capozza D., Boccato G., Andrighetto L., Falvo R. Categorization of ambiguous human/ape faces: Protection of ingroup but not outgroup humanity // Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2009. Vol. 12. № 6. P. 777—787. DOI:10.1177/1368430209344868
  15. Capozza D., Di Bernardo G.A., Falvo R., Vianello R., Calò L. Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities: Do educators assign them a fully human status? // Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 2016. Vol. 46. № 9. P. 497—509. DOI:10.1111/jasp.12377
  16. Castano E., Giner-Sorolla R. Not quite human: Infrahumanization in response to collective responsibility for intergroup killing // Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2006. Vol. 90. № 5. P. 804—818. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.90.5.804
  17. Čehajić S., Brown R., González R. What do I care? Perceived ingroup responsibility and dehumanization as predictors of empathy felt for the victim group // Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2009. Vol. 12. № 6. P. 715—729. DOI:10.1177/1368430209347727
  18. Cortes B.P., Demoulin S., Rodriguez R.T., Rodriguez A.P., Leyens J.-P. Infrahumanization or familiarity? Attribution of uniquely human emotions to the self, the ingroup, and the outgroup // Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2005. Vol. 31. № 2. P. 243—253. DOI:10.1177/0146167204271421
  19. Costello K., Hodson G. Exploring the roots of dehumanization: The role of animal—human similarity in promoting immigrant humanization // Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2010. Vol. 13. № 1. P. 3—22. DOI:10.1177/1368430209347725
  20. Costello K., Hodson G. Lay beliefs about the causes of and solutions to dehumanization and prejudice: do nonexperts recognize the role of human-animal relations? // Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 2014. Vol. 44. № 4. P. 278—288. DOI:10.1111/jasp.12221
  21. Cuddy A.J.C., Fiske S.T., Glick P. Warmth and competence as universal dimensions of social perception: The Stereotype content model and the BIAS map // Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. 2008. Vol. 40. № 7. P. 61—149. DOI:10.1016/S0065-2601(07)00002-0
  22. Cuddy A.J.C., Rock M.S., Norton M.I. Aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Inferences of secondary emotions and intergroup helping // Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. 2007. Vol. 10. № 1. P. 107—118. DOI:10.1177/1368430207071344
  23. Curtis V., Barra M.De, Aunger R. Disgust as an adaptive system for disease avoidance behaviour // Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 2011. Vol. 366. № 1563. P. 389—401. DOI:10.1098/rstb.2010.0117
  24. Dalsklev M., Kunst J.R. The effect of disgust-eliciting media portrayals on outgroup dehumanization and support of deportation in a Norwegian sample // International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 2015. Vol. 47. P. 28—40. DOI:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2015.03.028
  25. Demoulin S., Cortes B.P., Viki T.G., Rodriguez A.P., Rodriguez R.T., Paladino M.P., Leyens J. The role of in-group identification in infra-humanization // International Journal of Psychology. 2009. Vol. 44. № 1. P. 4—11. DOI:10.1080/00207590802057654
  26. Eyssel F., Ribas X. How to be good (or bad): On the fakeability of dehumanization and prejudice against outgroups // Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2012. Vol. 15. № 6. P. 804—812. DOI:10.1177/1368430212447204
  27. Fiske S.T., Cuddy A.J.C., Glick P. Universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence // Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 2007. Vol. 11. № 2. P. 77—83. DOI:10.1016/j. tics.2006.11.005
  28. Fiske S.T., Cuddy A.J.C., Glick P., Xu J. A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition // Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2002. Vol. 82. № 6. P. 878—902. DOI:10.4324/9781315187280
  29. Formanowicz M., Goldenberg A., Saguy T., Pietraszkiewicz A., Walker M., Gross J.J. Understanding dehumanization: The role of agency and communion // Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2018. Vol. 77. № 77. P. 102—116. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2018.04.003
  30. Gaunt R. Intergroup relations and the attribution of emotions: Control over memory for secondary emotions associated with ingroup or outgroup // Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2002. Vol. 38. P. 508—514. DOI:10.1016/S0022-1031(02)00014-8
  31. Gaunt R. Superordinate categorization as a moderator of mutual infrahumanization // Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2009. Vol. 12. № 6. P. 731—746. DOI:10.1177/1368430209343297
  32. Giner-sorolla R., Russell P.S. Not just disgust: Fear and anger also relate to intergroup dehumanization // Collabra: Psychology. 2019. Vol. 5. № 1. P. 1—21. DOI:10.1525/ collabra.211
  33. Goff P.A., Eberhardt J.L., Williams M.J., Jackson M.C. Not yet human: implicit knowledge, historical dehumanization, and contemporary consequences // Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2008. Vol. 94. № 2. P. 292—306. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.94.2.292
  34. Gwinn J.D., Judd C.M., Park B. Less power = less human? Effects of power differentials on dehumanization // Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2013. Vol. 49. № 3. P. 464—470. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2013.01.005
  35. Harris L.T., Fiske S.T. Dehumanizing the lowest of the low: Neuroimaging responses to extreme out-groups // Psychological Science. 2006. Vol. 17. № 10. P. 847—853. DOI:10.1111/j.1467- 9280.2006.01793.x
  36. Haslam N. Dehumanization: An integrative review // Personal and Social Psychology Review. 2006. Vol. 10. № 3. P. 252—264. DOI:10.1207/s15327957pspr1003
  37. Haslam N., Bain P. Humanizing the self: Moderators of the attribution of lesser humanness to others // Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2007. Vol. 33. № 1. P. 57—68. DOI:10.1177/0146167206293191
  38. Haslam N., Bain P., Douge L., Lee M., Bastian B. More human than you: attributing humanness to self and others // Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2005. Vol. 89. № 6. P. 937—950. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.89.6.937
  39. Haslam N., Bastian B., Bissett M. Essentialist beliefs about personality and their implications // Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2004. Vol. 30. № 12. P. 1661—1673. DOI:10.1177/0146167204271182
  40. Haslam N., Loughnan S. Dehumanization and infrahumanization // Annual Review of Psychology. 2014. Vol. 65. № 1. P. 399—423. DOI:10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115045
  41. Haslam N., Loughnan S., Kashima Y., Bain P. Attributing and denying humanness to others // European Review of Social Psychology. 2008. Vol. 19. № 1. P. 55—85. DOI:10.1080/10463280801981645
  42. Haslam N., Loughnan S., Sun P. Beastly: What makes animal metaphors offensive? // Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 2011. Vol. 30. № 3. P. 311—325. DOI:10.1177/0261927X11407168
  43. Iatridis T. Occupational status differences in attributions of uniquely human emotions // British Journal of Social Psychology. 2013. Vol. 52. № 3. P. 431—449. DOI:10.1111/j.2044-8309.2011.02094.x
  44. Jost J.T., Banaji M.R., Nosek B.A. A Decade of System justification theory: Accumulated evidence of conscious and unconscious bolstering of the status quo // Political Psychology. 2004. Vol. 25. № 6. P. 881—919. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9221.2004.00402.x
  45. Koval P., Laham S.M., Haslam N., Bastian B., Whelan J.A. Our flaws are more human than yours // Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2012. Vol. 38. № 3. P. 283—295. DOI:10.1177/0146167211423777
  46. Leyens J.-P., Demoulin S., Vaes J., Gaunt R., Paladino P.M. Infra-humanization: The wall of group differences // Social Issues and Policy Review. 2007. Vol. 1. № 1. P. 139—172. DOI:10.1111/j.1751- 2409.2007.00006.x
  47. Leyens J.P., Rodriguez-Perez A., Rodriguez-Torres R., Gaunt R., Paladino M.P., Vaes J., Demoulin S. Psychological essentialism and the differential attribution of uniquely human emotions to ingroups and outgroups // European Journal of Social Psychology. 2001. Vol. 31. № 4. P. 395—411. DOI:10.1002/ejsp.50
  48. Leyens Jacques-Philippe, Paladino P.M., Rodriguez-Torres R., Vaes J., Demoulin S., Rodriguez- Perez A., Gaunt R. The emotional side of prejudice: The attribution of secondary emotions to ingroups and outgroups // Personality and Social Psychology Review. 2000. Vol. 4. № 2. P. 186— 197. DOI:10.1207/S15327957PSPR0402_06
  49. Loughnan S., Haslam N. Animals and androids: Implicit associations between social categories and nonhumans // Psychological Science. 2007. Vol. 18. № 2. P. 116—122. DOI:10.1111/j.1467- 9280.2007.01858.x
  50. Loughnan S., Haslam N., Kashima Y. Understanding the relationship between attribute-based and metaphor-based dehumanization // Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2009. Vol. 12. № 6. P. 747—762. DOI:10.1177/1368430209347726
  51. Martin J., Bennett M., Murray W.S. A developmental study of the infrahumanization hypothesis // British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 2008. Vol. 26. P. 153—161. DOI:10.1348/026151007X216261
  52. Matsumoto D., Hwang H.S. Culture and emotion: The integration of biological and cultural contributions // Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 2012. Vol. 43. № 1. P. 91—118. DOI:10.1177/0022022111420147
  53. Morris K.L., Goldenberg J., Boyd P. Women as animals, women as objects: Evidence for two forms of objectification // Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2018. Vol. 44. № 9. P. 1302— 1314. DOI:10.1177/0146167218765739
  54. Motyl M., Hart J., Pyszczynski T. When animals attack: The effects of mortality salience, infrahumanization of violence, and authoritarianism on support for war // Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2010. Vol. 46. № 1. P. 200—203. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2009.08.012
  55. Paladino M.-P., Leyens J.-P., Rodriguez R., Rodriguez A., Gaunt R., Demoulin S. Differential association of uniquely and non-uniquely human emotions with the ingroup and the outgroup // Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2002. Vol. 5. № 2. P. 105—117. DOI:10.1177/13630202005002539
  56. Paladino M.P., Vaes J. Ours is human: on the pervasiveness of infra-humanization in intergroup relations // The British Journal of Social Psychology. 2009. Vol. 48. P. 237—251. DOI:10.1348/014466608X322882
  57. Park J., Haslam N., Kashima Y. Relational to the core: Lay theories of humanness in Australia, Japan, and Korea // Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 2012. Vol. 43. № 5. P. 774—783. DOI:10.1177/0022022111414417
  58. Pereira C., Vala J., Leyens J.P. From infra-humanization to discrimination: The mediation of symbolic threat needs egalitarian norms // Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2009. Vol. 45. № 2. P. 336—344. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2008.10.010
  59. Prati F., Crisp R.J., Meleady R., Rubini M. Humanizing outgroups through multiple categorization // Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2016. Vol. 42. № 4. P. 526—539. DOI:10.1177/0146167216636624
  60. Renger D., Mommert A., Renger S., Simon B. When less equal is less human: Intragroup (dis) respect and the experience of being human // Journal of Social Psychology. 2016. Vol. 156. № 5. P. 553—563. DOI:10.1080/00224545.2015.1135865
  61. Rodriguez-Perez A., Delgado-Rodriguez N., Betancor-Rodriguez V., Leyens J.P., Vaes J. Infra-humanization of outgroups throughout the world. The role of similarity, intergroup friendship, knowledge of the outgroup, and status // Anales De Psicologia. 2011. Vol. 27. № 3. P. 679—687.
  62. Rothbart M., Taylor M. Category labels and social reality: Do we view social categories as natural kinds? // Language, Interaction and Social Cognition / In G.R. Semin, K. Fiedler (Eds.). Sage Publications. 1992. P. 11—36. DOI:10.1002/casp.2450040509
  63. Rozin P., Haidt J., McCauley C.R. Disgust // Handbook of Social Psychology / In S.T. Fiske, D.T. Gilbert, G. Lindzey (Eds.). Wiley, 2010. Vol. 5. P. 797—832.
  64. Tajfel H., Turner J.C. The social identity theory of intergroup behavior // The psychology of intergroup relations / In S. Worchel, W.G. Austin (Eds.). Nelson-Hall, 1986. P. 7—24.
  65. Tam T., Hewstone M., Cairns E., Tausch N., Maio G., Kenworthy J. The impact of intergroup emotions on forgiveness in Northern Ireland // Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. 2007. Vol. 10. P. 119—136. DOI:10.1177/1368430207071345
  66. Terskova M.A., Agadullina E.R. Dehumanization of dirty workers and attitudes toward social support // Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 2019. Vol. 49. № 12. P. 767—777. DOI:10.1111/ jasp.12633
  67. Unkelbach C., Fiedler K., Bayer M., Stegmüller M., Danner D. Why positive information is processed faster: The density hypothesis // Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2008. Vol. 95. № 1. P. 36—49. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.95.1.36
  68. Vaes J., Heflick N.A., Goldenberg J.L. “We are people”: Ingroup humanization as an existential defense // Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2010. Vol. 98. № 5. P. 750—760. DOI:10.1037/a0017658
  69. Vaes J., Leyens J.P., Paladino M.P., Miranda M.P. We are human, they are not: Driving forces behind outgroup dehumanisation and the humanisation of the ingroup // European Review of Social Psychology. 2012. Vol. 23. № 1. P. 64—106. DOI:10.1080/10463283.2012.665250
  70. Vaes J., Paladino M.P. The uniquely human content of stereotypes // Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2010. Vol. 13. № 1. P. 23—39. DOI:10.1177/1368430209347331
  71. Vaes J., Paladino P., Puvia E. Are sexualized women complete human beings? Why men and women dehumanize sexually objectified women // European Journal of Social Psychology. 2011. Vol. 41. № 6. P. 774—785. DOI:10.1002/ejsp.824
  72. Viki G.T., Abrams D. Infra-humanization: Ambivalent sexism and the attribution of primary and secondary emotions to women // Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2003. Vol. 39. № 5. P. 492—499. DOI:10.1016/S0022-1031(03)00031-3
  73. Viki G.T., Fullerton I., Raggett H., Tait F., Wiltshire S. The role of dehumanization in attitudes toward the social exclusion and rehabilitation of sex offenders // Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 2012. Vol. 42. № 10. P. 2349—2367. DOI:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2012.00944.x
  74. Weisel O., Bohm R. “Ingroup love” and “outgroup hate” in intergroup conflict between natural groups // Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2015. Vol. 60. P. 110—120. DOI:10.1016/j. jesp.2015.04.008
  75. Wohl M.J.A., Hornsey M.J., Bennett S.H. Why group apologies succeed and fail: Intergroup forgiveness and the role of primary and secondary emotions // Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2012. Vol. 102. № 2. P. 306—322. DOI:10.1037/a0024838
  76. Zebel S., Zimmermann A., Tendayi Viki G., Doosje B. Dehumanization and guilt as distinct but related predictors of support for reparation policies // Political Psychology. 2008. Vol. 29. № 2. P. 193—219. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9221.2008.00623.x


Information About the Authors

Elena R. Agadullina, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, School of Psychology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 984
Previous month: 41
Current month: 14


Total: 607
Previous month: 6
Current month: 8