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Infra-humanization: The Wall of Group Differences


  • We are grateful to Naira Delgado, Jennifer Eberhardt, Phil Goff, Mirek Kofta, Mariana Miranda, Monika Miroslawska, and Armando Rodriguez, who contributed to this article by letting us use their unpublished work, but who also provided constructive comments on first versions. We thank Vicki Esses and John Dovidio for their help in shaping the present version of this article.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jacques-Philippe Leyens. Université catholique de Louvain. Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l'Education. 10 Place Cardinal Mercier, 1348, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. [e-mail:]


Infra-humanizing outgroups involves considering outgroups less human and more animal-like than the ingroup, which is perceived, in essence, as fully human. In this article, the first section presents the theoretical background of infra-humanization and distinguishes it from related concepts, such as dehumanization. The three basic hypotheses of the theory are then presented with a summary of empirical evidence. Social implications follow. Reasons for the pervasiveness of the phenomenon are examined as well as conditions that lead a specific outgroup to be infra-humanized. We also explore the consequences of infra-humanization, such as a lack of forgiveness for the outgroup and the ingroup's justification for past misdeeds against the outgroup, rather than guilt. Policy issues center on ways to combat essentialism, walls of difference between groups, and irrational symbols of superiority. The roles of egalitarian values and of deprovincialized intergroup contact are emphasized.