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"Re-humanization": The role of human-animal similarity in predicting prejudice towards immigrants and non-human animals

By Kimberly Costello

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Abstract

Research implies that there may be an association between attitudes toward marginalized human outgroups and non-human animals. Very few studies, however, have specifically tested this relation empirically. The general purpose of the present research was to determine if such a relation exists and if perceptions of human-animal similarity avail as a common predictor of both types of attitudes. Ideological orientations associated with prejudiced attitudes (Social Dominance Orientation, Right-Wing Authoritarianism, and Universal Orientation) were also examined as individual differences in predicting perceptions of human-animal similarity. As predicted, people who endorsed prejudiced attitudes toward human outgroups (Study 1) and immigrants in particular (Studies 2 and 3), were more likely to endorse prejudiced attitudes toward non-human animals. In Study 2, perceptions that humans are superior (versus similar) to other animals directly predicted higher levels of prejudice toward non-human animals, whereas the effect of human superiority beliefs on immigrant prejudice was mediated by dehumanization. In other words, greater perceptions of humans as superior (versus similar) to other animals "allowed for" greater dehumanization of immigrants, which in turn resulted in heightened immigrant prejudice. Furthermore, people higher in Social Dominance Orientation or Right-Wing Authoritarianism were particularly likely to perceive humans as superior (versus similar) to other animals, whereas people characterized by a greater Universal Orientation were more likely to perceive humans and non-human animals as similar. Study 3 examined whether inducing perceptions of human-animal similarity through experimental manipulation would lead to more favourable attitudes toward non-human animals and immigrants. Participants were randomly assigned to read one of four 11 editorials designed to highlight either the similarities or differences between humans and other animals (i.e., animals are similar to humans; humans are similar to animals;~~animals are inferior to humans; humans are superior to animals) or to a neutral control condition. Encouragingly, when animals were described as similar to humans, prejudice towards non-human animals and immigrants was significantly lower, and to some extent this finding was also true for people naturally high in prejudice (i.e., high in Social Dominance Orientation or Right-Wing Authoritarianism). Inducing perceptions that nonhuman animals are similar to humans was particularly effective at reducing the tendency to dehumanize immigrants ("re-humanization"), lowering feelings of personal threat regarding one's animal-nature, and at increasing inclusive intergroup representations and empathy, all of which uniquely accounted for the significant decreases in prejudiced attitudes. Implications for research, theory and prejudice interventions are considered.

Submitter

Deborah Maron

Date 2008
Degree Master of Arts
URL https://dr.library.brocku.ca/bitstream/handle/10464/2830/Brock_Costello_Kimberly_2008.pdf?sequence=1
Language English
Notes This thesis is published through Brock University and is available in their Digital Repository: dr.library.brocku.ca
University Brock University
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Tags
  1. Animals
  2. Animals in culture
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Belief
  5. Differences
  6. orientations
  7. prejudices
  8. Social Dominance
  9. Studies