Explaining dehumanization among children: The interspecies model of prejudice



Although many theoretical approaches have emerged to explain prejudices expressed by children, none incorporate outgroup dehumanization, a key predictor of prejudice among adults. According to the Interspecies Model of Prejudice, beliefs in the human–animal divide facilitate outgroup prejudice through fostering animalistic dehumanization (Costello & Hodson, 2010). In the present investigation, White children attributed Black children fewer ‘uniquely human’ characteristics, representing the first systematic evidence of racial dehumanization among children (Studies 1 and 2). In Study 2, path analyses supported the Interspecies Model of Prejudice: children's human–animal divide beliefs predicted greater racial prejudice, an effect explained by heightened racial dehumanization. Similar patterns emerged among parents. Furthermore, parent Social Dominance Orientation predicted child prejudice indirectly through children's endorsement of a hierarchical human–animal divide and subsequent dehumanizing tendencies. Encouragingly, children's human–animal divide perceptions were malleable to an experimental prime highlighting animal–human similarity. Implications for prejudice interventions are considered.