Cognitive determinants of infra-humanization: the role of illusory correlation and attentional processes

Prazienkova, Martina (2013) Cognitive determinants of infra-humanization: the role of illusory correlation and attentional processes. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

PDF - Doctoral Thesis


People commonly attribute more uniquely human characteristics to their in-group than to out-groups but do not differentially attribute the characteristics that we share with other animals. This process is called out-group de/infra-humanization. Up to now it has been conceptualized mainly as a motivated phenomenon serving many intergroup functions. Research so far has not investigated the possibility that animalistic de/infra-humanization might also have cognitive determinants. My research sought to fill this gap in the literature by suggesting that out-group infra-humanization can be conceived as an illusory correlation that people create between groups which represent (at least in one’s own experience) the majority and humanness, which is a quality unique to and shared by all human beings. Recent research on illusory correlation explains this phenomenon in terms of Kruschke’s (1996, 2001, 2003) Attention Theory of category learning (AT). AT proposes that, when learning about multiple groups, the features of the majority group are learned earlier than the features of the minority group. Once the features of the majority group are learned, attention is shifted to learn about the minority group. Impressions of the second-learned group form around those features that most clearly differentiate it from the first-learned group. Since the in-group often has a majority status and being uniquely human is a generally shared attribute, this model would suggest that we tend to associate humanness with the in-group. In turn, the association of humanness with the second-learned group (out-group) would be inhibited. Moreover, the out-group is more likely to be associated with the less common comparative attribute (i.e., non-uniquely human), strengthening out-group infra-humanization. Three experiments support this explanation of the infra-humanization effect as a result of associating humanity with the in-group. In Studies 1 and 2, we investigated whether out-group infra-humanization can result from the way people perceive and process information in case of illusory correlation where no real differences exist between the majority and minority groups. In Study 3, we investigated whether group identification modulates the basic illusory correlation effect. Implications for de/infra-humanization, illusory correlation, and stereotype formation are discussed.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Psychological Sciences and Education
PhD Cycle:XXVI
Subjects:Area 11 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche > M-PSI/05 PSICOLOGIA SOCIALE
Uncontrolled Keywords:infra-humanization, cognitive processes, attention, illusory correlation, stereotype formation
Repository Staff approval on:04 Dec 2013 09:57

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