Data_Sheet_1_Animalistic dehumanisation as a social influence strategy.PDF (210.64 kB)
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Data_Sheet_1_Animalistic dehumanisation as a social influence strategy.PDF

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posted on 2023-01-11, 15:51 authored by Alain Quiamzade, Fanny Lalot

The phenomenon of animalistic dehumanisation has been extensively studied in social psychology, but mostly as an intergroup relations tool used to justify the mistreatment of an outgroup. Surprisingly, however, dehumanisation has not been approached as an influence strategy to convince the ingroup to mistreat an outgroup. In the present article, we investigate these possible influence effects. We propose that a message depicting an outgroup in negative animalised terms would lead to lasting unfavourable outgroup attitudes because the animal essence conveyed through the message would immunise ingroup members against subsequent counterinfluence attempts. In one experimental study we compared the effect of three influence messages depicting a despised outgroup (Roma beggars) in negative animalised vs. negative humanised vs. positive humanised terms, followed by a counterpropaganda message advocating for Roma beggars’ rights. Results show that the animalisation message leads to a lasting animalised perception of the outgroup (eliciting disgust and repugnancy) that resists exposure to the counterpropaganda positive message. In contrast, the negative humanisation message provokes a brief negative perception of the group (pre-counterpropaganda) that disappears after exposure to the counterpropaganda. The animalisation message also leads to more negative attitudes and discriminatory behavioural intentions towards Roma beggars expressed after the counterpropaganda message (i.e., discrimination in the workplace, hiring intentions, and social proximity), whilst the negative humanisation message does not, showing no difference with the positive humanisation message. These results suggest that animalistic dehumanisation indeed acts as an influence strategy, immunising targets against subsequent counterpropaganda attempts. We discuss implications in the light of essentialisation, forms of dehumanisation and group status, and current non-discriminatory norms.