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Imagine People Like Us: Imagined Intergroup Contact Promotes Support for Human Rights through Increased Humanization

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on

Abstract

Dehumanization concerns the denial of others’ human uniqueness (animalistic dehumanization) or human nature (mechanistic dehumanization). Imagined intergroup contact has been suggested to be an effective technique for reducing dehumanization. We examined whether this intervention might primarily work by increasing the type of humanness the group specifically lacks. Study 1 revealed that after imagining contact with an animalized outgroup (i.e., Gypsy people), participants attributed higher levels of human uniqueness. Study 2 replicated this finding, eliminating improved intergroup attitudes as an alternative explanation. Further, it demonstrated that imagined contact increased support for human rights, and that this was mediated by increased adscription of human uniqueness. Study 3 confirmed previous evidence by showing that after imagining contact with a mechanized outgroup (i.e., Japanese people), participants attributed higher levels of human nature that explains support for human rights. Overall, imagined contact specifically works at increasing the type of humanness the group is typically denied.