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“Everybody feels a broken bone, but only we can feel a broken heart”: Group membership influences the perception of targets' suffering



There is surmounting evidence in the literature demonstrating that social pain (e.g. rejection, humiliation, and isolation) and physical pain (e.g. injury or assault) overlap in personal experiences. The present investigation focuses on second-hand perceptions of social and physical pain. We argue that judgments of others' pain may vary as a function of group membership. By integrating research on intergroup bias in pain judgment with intergroup attributions of humanity, we predicted that observers tend to underestimate social pain more than physical pain in out-groups compared with in-groups. Across two studies that considered different scenarios, we found that Italian participants attributed less severe social pain when considering an out-group (Chinese and Ecuadorian) than an in-group member. No such effect was found for physical pain. Overall, the current work suggests an additional way through which people preserve a privileged human status to in-group members while denying out-group members' humanness. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.