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Unformatted text preview: Research Article Dehumanizing the Lowest of the Low Neuroimaging Responses to Extreme Out-Groups Lasana T. Harris and Susan T. Fiske Department of Psychology; Center for the Study of Brain, Mind, and Behavior; Princeton University ABSTRACT— Traditionally, prejudice has been conceptual- ized as simple animosity. The stereotype content model (SCM) shows that some prejudice is worse. The SCM pre- viously demonstrated separate stereotype dimensions of warmth (low-high) and competence (low-high), identifying four distinct out-group clusters. The SCM predicts that only extreme out-groups, groups that are both stereotyp- icallyhostile and stereotypicallyincompetent (low warmth, low competence), such as addicts and the homeless, will be dehumanized. Prior studies show that the medial pre- frontal cortex (mPFC) is necessary for social cognition. Functional magnetic resonance imaging provided data for examining brain activations in 10 participants viewing 48 photographs of social groups and 12 participants viewing objects; each picture dependably represented one SCM quadrant. Analyses revealed mPFC activation to all social groups except extreme (low-low) out-groups, who espe- cially activated insula and amygdala, a pattern consistent with disgust, the emotion predicted by the SCM. No objects, though rated with the same emotions, activated the mPFC. This neural evidence supports the prediction that extreme out-groups may be perceived as less than human, or de- humanized. Laypeople characterize prejudice broadly as general animosity toward another person or social group. Researchers themselves have traditionally viewed prejudice simply as dislike of an in- dividual primarily because of his or her perceived membership in a social group. Evidence for this traditional view can be found in bipolar attitude scales (like-dislike) that measure prejudice (Ostrom, Bond, Krosnick, & Sedikides, 1994). Allport (1954), often considered the intellectual father of prejudice research, defined prejudice broadly as an antipathy based on a perceived social category. But Allport did not stop with prejudice as simple univalent antipathy. He also noted that each social category is saturated with affect. Allport contrasted then-current stereo- types of Black people as lazy and Jewish people as overly ambi- tious; both groups were mistrusted. Modern researchers interested in intergroup emotions have investigated Allport’s emotional fla- vors in more detail, introducing a range of emotions well beyond simple animosity (Mackie & Smith, 2002). Not all prejudices are equal; here, we present new social neuroscience data indicating that extreme forms of prejudice may deny their targets even full humanity....
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