We are less likely to humanize members of groups we don’t belong to—except, under some circumstances, when it comes to members of the opposite political party. A study by researchers at New York University and Harvard Business School suggests that we are more prone to view members of the opposite political party as human if we view those individuals as threatening.
“It’s hardly surprising that we dehumanize those who are not part of our groups,” says Jay Van Bavel, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and one of the study’s co-authors. “However, what is interesting is that we may be motivated to perceive the presence of a mind among political adversaries who threaten us.
“It’s possible that when we believe our political opponents are formidable we may humanize them in ways we don’t with members of other out-groups.”
The study appears in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.