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Psychology Glossary

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Dehumanization

Dehumanization is the loss of human qualities and attributes that make a person or group of people appear to be human beings. People who are experiencing dehumanization are perceived to be separate, unequal, and distant from actual humans. Individuals and institutions (such as a state or family) can dehumanize others and this demoralization can have both physical and psychological components.

There are varied methods in which dehumanization can be used against an individual or group. It can occur through a verbal discourse that likens a group of people to animals or through physical and/or verbal abuse. Dehumanization can also occur by not acknowledging a person because of particular traits they possess. An example can be seen when a person or group discriminates against a different race solely because they belong to a particular ethnic group. Comparisons to non-human entities and the attribution of negative traits can be used to dehumanize the members of the ethnic group. Dehumanization is a common tactic in war and civil strife- by making the enemy appear non-human it is easier for people to commit violent acts against them or be in support of domination over them.

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