Last week, the world watched in horror as migrant kids were split from their parents and placed in federal custody.
In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology and publicized in Science Daily, researchers explained that dislike and dehumanization are different mental processes occurring in different parts of the brain.
“It has long been thought that when people characterized others as less-than-human, it was an expression of extreme dislike. New research shows that in fact judgements about dislike and dehumanization of people occur in separate brain regions, suggesting they are different psychological processes,” the scientists write. “This has implications for how we understand the migrant detention crisis in America as well as intergroup conflict around the world.”
“When people are dehumanizing others, they are mobilizing different brain regions than when they are registering their dislike,” explains co-lead author Emile Bruneau, Ph.D., director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication.
“Brain regions sensitive to dehumanizing other groups were not sensitive to dislike. And brain regions activated when registering dislike for those same groups were not activated when thinking about how human those groups are.”
The scientists point out that extreme dehumanization occurs with groups all over the world, from the Roma in Europe to Africans to Muslims.
Other groups of people commonly subject to dehumanization include prisoners and the homeless.