Muslims, Mexicans seen as less than human in US study

Psychologists say dehumanizing attitude promotes violence, non-cooperation

Barry Eitel  | 07.02.2017
Muslims, Mexicans seen as less than human in US study



When Muslims and Mexican immigrants feel dejected by Americans they are more likely to support violent over non-violent action, a team of psychologists said in a report Monday.

The report comes amid White House rhetoric regarding both groups coming.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month that bars immigrants and refugees from seven predominately Muslim nations. Although a federal judge put a temporary halt on the ban, the action was seen by many as essentially a ban on Muslims.

Similarly, Trump has long pushed to crackdown on undocumented immigrants, especially those from Mexico and Central America.

In the new report, “Backlash: The Politics and Real-World Consequences of Minority Group Dehumanization," researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University found that singling out and demoralizing minorities can backfire on those, like some Trump supporters, who seem to believe the intolerance will keep Americans safer.

Survey takers rated different groups by using the famous “Ascent of Man” diagram, which displays human ancestors that begins with a primitive, ape-like figure and leads through several iterations all the way to an upright modern human.

Of the 1,100 Americans surveyed, Muslims and Mexican immigrants were thought of as less human than U.S. residents on the whole. This view was especially prevalent among supporters of Trump, who was still a presidential candidate at the time of the survey.

On the whole, the survey of Americans, who were majority white, rated Muslims a 70 on a "humanness" scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the most fully evolved modern man. Mexican immigrants were rated at about a 75. Americans were awarded about a 95 on the scale.

In another survey, Latinos and Muslims said that they perceived a high level of dehumanization stemming from Trump’s campaign, the Republican Party and Americans in general.

The more the perceived dehumanization, the more likely the participant would be inclined to support violent collective action over non-violent.

A high level of demoralization in American Muslim participants was also linked to a less willing attitude toward assisting law enforcement agencies with counterterrorism investigations.

"Feeling not only disliked, but dehumanized by another group has a profound effect on people," study co-author Emile Bruneau said in a statement. "If we use rhetoric and enact policies that make Muslims feel dehumanized, this may lead them to support exactly the types of aggression that reinforce the perception that they are 'less civilized' than 'us.' In this way, dehumanization can become self-fulfilling in the minds of the dehumanizers and justify their aggression."

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