Although mind perception is a basic part of social interaction, people often dehumanize others by denying them mental states. Many theories suggest that dehumanization happens in order to facilitate aggression or account for past immorality. We suggest a novel motivation for dehumanization: to avoid affective costs. We show that dehumanization of stigmatized targets (e.g., drug addicts) relative to nonstigmatized targets is strongest for those who are motivated to avoid emotional exhaustion. In Experiment 1, participants anticipated more exhaustion from helping, and attributed less mind to, a stigmatized target and anticipated exhaustion partially mediated the influence of stigma on mind attribution. Experiment 2 manipulated anticipated exhaustion prior to an empathy plea and revealed that the influence of stigma on mind attribution was only present when people anticipated high levels of emotional exhaustion.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Clinical Psychology