Does power make us dehumanize people?


The current paper shows that the experience or possession of power increases dehumanization—the process of denying essential elements of “humanness” in other people and perceiving them as objects or animals. A position of power entails making difficult decisions for other people that may cause pain and suffering. Dehumanization helps to downplay this pain and suffering and thus to justify these decisions. Study 1 shows that powerful people dehumanize an outgroup more. Study 2 replicates that powerful people dehumanize an outgroup more and shows that this is especially likely after making a tough decision that is painful for that outgroup. Study 3 replicates this in a medical context. Together, these studies show that dehumanization—although by itself a very negative phenomenon—can also have functional elements: it helps powerful people to make tough decisions in a more distant, cold, and rational manner.

Source: “Power increases dehumanization” from Group Processes Intergroup Relations

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