Publications by topic

Four Processes that Drive Intergroup Conflict and Discrimination:


Intergroup Contact Reduces Dehumanization and Meta-Dehumanization: Cross-Sectional, Longitudinal, and Quasi-Experimental Evidence From 16 Samples in Five Countries

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2020)

Emile Bruneau, Boaz Hameiri, Samantha L. Moore-Berg, and Nour Kteily


In 16 independent samples from five countries involving ~7,700 participants, we employ a mixture of cross-sectional, longitudinal, and quasi-experimental methods to examine the effect of intergroup contact on (a) the blatant dehumanization of outgroups, and (b) the perception that outgroup members dehumanize the ingroup (meta-dehumanization). First, we conduct a meta-analysis across 12 survey samples collected from five countries regarding eight different target groups (total N = 5,388) and find a consistent effect of contact quality on dehumanization and meta-dehumanization. Second, we use a large longitudinal sample of American participants (N = 1,103) to show that quality of contact with Muslims at Time 1 predicts dehumanization of Muslims and meta-dehumanization 6 months later. Finally, we show that sustained semester-long “virtual contact” between American and Muslim college students is associated with reduced American students’ (N = 487) dehumanization of, and perceived dehumanization by, Muslims.

The Prime Psychological Suspects of Toxic Political Polarization

Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 2020

Samantha L Moore-Berg, Boaz Hameiri, Emile Bruneau


Democracies welcome dissent, but when disagreements turn divisive, they can imperil social cohesion and become toxic to democracy. We review research on the psychological processes associated with toxic polarization. Prior work has generally focused on polarization as a consequence of ideological differences or affective evaluations. We assess recent research on these dimensions, and extend the scope to include psychological processes that motivate hostility in other intergroup settings, but that have only recently been examined in political contexts: dehumanization and ‘meta-perceptions’ (negative evaluations of the ingroup perceived to be held by the outgroup). By examining these processes in the context of equal-status, but ideologically opposite, groups, the research reviewed provides new insight into the ways intergroup evaluations are shaped by political ideological orientations.

Exaggerated Meta-Perceptions Predict Intergroup Hostility Between American Political Partisans

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020

Samantha L Moore-Berg, Lee-Or Ankori-Karlinsky, Boaz Hameiri, Emile Bruneau


People’s actions toward a competitive outgroup can be motivated not only by their perceptions of the outgroup, but also by how they think the outgroup perceives the ingroup (i.e., meta-percep- tions). Here, we examine the prevalence, accuracy, and conse- quences of meta-perceptions among American political partisans. Using a representative sample (n = 1,056) and a longitudinal con- venience sample (n = 2,707), we find that Democrats and Repub- licans equally dislike and dehumanize each other but think that the levels of prejudice and dehumanization held by the outgroup party are approximately twice as strong as actually reported by a representative sample of Democrats and Republicans. Overestima- tions of negative meta-perceptions were consistent across samples over time and between demographic subgroups but were modu- lated by political ideology: More strongly liberal Democrats and more strongly conservative Republicans were particularly prone to exaggerate meta-perceptions. Finally, we show that meta-prejudice and meta-dehumanization are independently associated with the desire for social distance from members of the outgroup party and support for policies that harm the country and flout democratic norms to favor the ingroup political party. This research demon- strates that partisan meta-perceptions are subject to a strong neg- ativity bias with Democrats and Republicans agreeing that the shadow of partisanship is much larger than it actually is, which fosters mutual intergroup hostility.

The Unique Effects of Blatant Dehumanization on Attitudes and Behavior Towards Muslim Refugees During the European ‘Refugee Crisis’ Across Four Countries

European Journal of Social Psychology, 2017 

Emile Bruneau, Nour S. Kteily, Lauststen


Blatant dehumanization has recently been demonstrated to predict negative outgroup attitudes and behaviors. Here, we examined blatant dehumanization of Muslim refugees during the ‘Refugee Crisis’ among large samples in four European countries: The Czech Republic (N=1,307), Hungary (N=502), Spain (N=1,049), and Greece (N=934). Our results suggest that blatant dehumanization of Muslim refugees is (a) prevalent among Europeans, and (b) uniquely associated with anti-refugee attitudes and behavior, beyond political ideology, prejudice, and— of particular relevance to the refugee crisis— empathy. We also find that blatant dehumanization of Muslim refugees is significantly higher and more strongly associated with intergroup behavior in the Eastern European countries (especially the Czech Republic) than in Spain and Greece. Examining a range of outgroup targets beyond refugees, our results further illustrate that blatant dehumanization is not purely an ethnocentric bias: whereas individuals across contexts feel warmer towards their group than all others, they rate several high-status outgroups as equally or more fully ‘evolved and civilized’ than the ingroup. Our research extends theoretical understanding of blatant dehumanization, and suggests that blatant dehumanization plays an important and independent role in the rejection of Muslim refugees throughout Europe.

Beyond Dislike: Blatant Dehumanization Predicts Teacher Discrimination

Group Process & Intergroup Relations, 2019 

Emile Bruneau, Hanna Szekeres, Nour Kteily, Linda R. Tropp and Anna Kende


School teachers have been shown to favor ethnic majority over minority students. However, it is unclear what psychological processes motivate ethnicity-based discrimination. Of the studies that have examined the psychological roots of teacher discrimination, most have focused on implicit or explicit prejudice. We propose an alternate predictor: dehumanization. Using a within-subject paradigm with a small-scale experiment (N = 29) and a larger scale replication (N = 161), we find that Hungarian preservice teachers consistently discriminate against Roma minority students by recommending that they be denied entry to higher track secondary schools, and preferentially placing them into lower track schools, relative to equally qualified ethnic majority Hungarian students, and that the severity of the ethnic tracking bias is predicted by dehumanization (but not prejudice). In fact, the relationship between dehumanization and discrimination holds (and may be significantly stronger) for teachers who express the lowest levels of prejudice towards the Roma.

Denying Humanity: The Distinct Neural Correlates of Blatant Dehumanization

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2018

Emile Bruneau, Nir Jacoby, Nour Kteily, Rebecca Saxe


Recent behavioral work demonstrates that many people view low-status groups as less “evolved and civilized” than high-status groups. Are these people using blatant expressions of dehumanization simply to express strong dislike toward other groups? Or is blatant dehumanization a process distinct from other negative assessments? We tested these competing hypotheses using functional neuroimaging. Participants judged 10 groups (e.g., Europeans, Muslims, rats) on four scales: blatant dehumanization, dislike, dissimilarity and perceived within-group homogeneity. Consistent with expectations, neural responses when making ratings of dehumanization diverged from those when judging the same targets on the other related dimensions. Specifically, we found regions in the left inferior parietal cortex (IPC) and left inferior frontal cortex (IFC) that were selectively parametrically modulated by dehumanization ratings. The pattern of responses in the left IFC was also consistent with animalistic dehumanization: high responses to low-status human groups and animals, and lower responses to high-status human groups. By contrast, a region in the posterior cingulate cortex was parametrically sensitive specifically to liking. We therefore demonstrate a double dissociation between brain activity associated with judgments of blatant dehumanization and judgments of dislike.

Our humanity Contains Multitudes: Dehumanization is More Than Overlooking Mental Capacities

PNAS, 2018

Katrina M. Fincher, Nour S. Kteily, and Emile G. Bruneau


No abstract available

Darker Demons of Our Nature: The Need to (Re-)Focus Attention on Blatant Forms of Dehumanization

Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2017

Emile G. Bruneau, Nour S. Kteily


Although dehumanization research first emerged following the overt and conscious denials of humanity present during war and genocide, modern dehumanization research largely examines more subtle and implicit forms of dehumanization in more everyday settings. We argue for the need to re-orient the research agenda towards understanding when and why individuals blatantly dehumanize others. We review recent research in a range of contexts suggesting that blatant dehumanization is surprisingly prevalent and potent, uniquely predicting aggressive intergroup attitudes and behavior beyond subtle forms of dehumanization and outgroup dislike, and promoting vicious cycles of conflict.

The Enemy as Animal: Symmetric Dehumanization During Asymmetric Warfare

PLOS ONE, 2017

Emile G. Bruneau, Nour S. Kteily


Historically, dehumanization has enabled members of advantaged groups to ‘morally disengage’ from disadvantaged group suffering, thereby facilitating acts of intergroup aggression such as colonization, slavery and genocide. But is blatant dehumanization exclusive to those at the top ‘looking down’, or might disadvantaged groups similarly dehumanize those who dominate them? We examined this question in the context of intergroup warfare in which the disadvantaged group shoulders a disproportionate share of casualties and may be especially likely to question the humanity of the advantaged group. Specifically, we assessed blatant dehumanization in the context of stark asymmetric conflict between Israelis (Study 1; N = 521) and Palestinians (Study 2; N = 354) during the 2014 Gaza war. We observed that (a) community samples of Israelis and Palestinians expressed extreme (and comparable) levels of blatant dehumanization, (b) blatant dehumanization was uniquely associated with outcomes related to outgroup hostility for both groups, even after accounting for political ideologies known to strongly predict outgroup aggression, and (c) the strength of association between blatant dehumanization and outcomes was similar across both groups. This study illuminates the striking potency and symmetry of blatant dehumanization among those on both sides of an active asymmetric conflict.

They See us as Less Than Human: Meta Dehumanization Predicts Intergroup Conflict Via Reciprocal Dehumanization

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2016

Nour Kteily, Gordon Hodson, Emile Bruneau


Although the act of dehumanizing an outgroup is a pervasive and potent intergroup process that drives discrimination and conflict, no formal research has examined the consequences of being dehumanized by an outgroup—that is, “metadehumanization.” Across 10 studies (N = 3,440) involving several real-world conflicts spanning 3 continents, we provide the first empirical evidence that meta dehumanization (a) plays a central role in outgroup aggression that is (b) mediated by outgroup dehumanization, and (c) distinct from meta prejudice. Studies 1a and 1b demonstrate experimentally that Americans who learn that Arabs (Study 1a) or Muslims (Study 1b) blatantly dehumanize Americans are more likely to dehumanize that outgroup in return; by contrast, experimentally increasing outgroup dehumanization did not increase meta dehumanization (Study 1c). Using correlational data, Study 2 documents indirect effects of metadehumanization on Americans’ support for aggressive policies toward Arabs (e.g., torture) via Arab dehumanization. In the context of Hungarians and ethnic minority Roma, Study 3 shows that the pathway for Hungarians from metadehumanization to aggression through outgroup dehumanization holds controlling for outgroup prejudice. Study 4 examines Israelis’ metaperceptions with respect to Palestinians, showing that: (a) feeling dehumanized (i.e., meta dehumanization) is distinct from feeling disliked (i.e., meta prejudice), and (b) meta dehumanization uniquely influences aggression through outgroup dehumanization, controlling for meta prejudice. Studies 5a and 5b explore Americans’ metaperceptions regarding ISIS and Iran. We document a dehumanization-specific pathway from metadehumanization to aggressive attitudes and behavior that is distinct from the path from meta prejudice through prejudice to aggression. In Study 6, American participants learning that Muslims humanize Americans (i.e., metahumanization) humanize Muslims in turn. Finally, Study 7 experimentally contrasts meta dehumanization and metahumanization primes, and shows that resulting differences in outgroup dehumanization are mediated by (a) perceived identity threat, and (b) a general desire to reciprocate the outgroup’s perceptions of the ingroup. In summary, our research outlines how and why meta dehumanization contributes to cycles of ongoing violence and animosity, providing direction for future research and policy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved).

Backlash: The Politics and Real-World Consequences of Minority Group Dehumanization

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Emile G. Bruneau, Nour S. Kteily


Research suggests that members of advantaged groups who feel dehumanized by other groups respond aggressively. But little is known about how meta-dehumanization affects disadvantaged minority group members, historically the primary targets of dehumanization. We examine this important question in the context of the 2016 U.S. Republican Primaries, which have witnessed the widespread derogation and dehumanization of Mexican immigrants and Muslims. Two initial studies document that Americans blatantly dehumanize Mexican immigrants and Muslims; this dehumanization uniquely predicts support for aggressive policies proposed by Republican nominees, and dehumanization is highly associated with supporting Republican candidates (especially Donald Trump). Two further studies show that, in this climate, Latinos and Muslims in the United States feel heavily dehumanized, which predicts hostile responses including support for violent versus nonviolent collective action and unwillingness to assist counterterrorism efforts. Our results extend theorizing on dehumanization, and suggest that it may have cyclical and self-fulfilling consequences.

The Ascent of Man: Theoretical and Empirical Evidence for Blatant Dehumanization

American Psychological Association, 2015

Kteily, N., Bruneau, E., Waytz, A., & Cotterill, S.


Dehumanization is a central concept in the study of intergroup relations. Yet although theoretical and methodological advances in subtle, “everyday” dehumanization have progressed rapidly, blatant dehumanization remains understudied. The present research attempts to refocus theoretical and empirical attention on blatant dehumanization, examining when and why it provides explanatory power beyond subtle dehumanization. To accomplish this, we introduce and validate a blatant measure of dehumanization based on the popular depiction of evolutionary progress in the “Ascent of Man.” We compare blatant dehumanization to established conceptualizations of subtle and implicit dehumanization, including infrahumanization, perceptions of human nature and human uniqueness, and implicit associations between ingroup– outgroup and human–animal concepts. Across 7 studies conducted in 3 countries, we demonstrate that blatant dehumanization is (a) more strongly associated with individual differences in support for hierarchy than subtle or implicit dehumanization, (b) uniquely predictive of numerous consequential attitudes and behaviors toward multiple outgroup targets, (c) predictive above prejudice, and (d) reliable over time. Finally, we show that blatant— but not subtle— dehumanization spikes immediately after incidents of real intergroup violence and strongly predicts support for aggressive actions like torture and retaliatory violence (after the Boston Marathon bombings and Woolwich attacks in England). This research extends theory on the role of dehumanization in intergroup relations and intergroup conflict and provides an intuitive, validated empirical tool to reliably measure blatant dehumanization.