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date: 27 February 2024

Dehumanization, Violence, and Genocidelocked

Dehumanization, Violence, and Genocidelocked

  • Steve Loughnan, Steve LoughnanUniversity of Edinburgh
  • Mayu KoikeMayu KoikeUniversity College London
  •  and Casey BevensCasey BevensUniversity of Edinburgh


The question of why people act violently is perhaps one of the most enduring and meaningful in social psychology. Among the various ways humans have mistreated one another over the millennia, intergroup violence and genocide stand as terrible monuments to our capacity for violence. It is sensible and important, then, that the psychological underpinnings of this mistreatment are examined as well as the factors that lead people to enact, sustain, and excuse violence. The major psychological theories of dehumanization are outlined, from its roots in genocide studies to a focus on everyday aggression and violence, and modern approaches are presented, which seek to explain extreme violence. The ways in which dehumanization can contribute to violence at the interpersonal level are mapped, examining evidence also from the closely related field of objectification. Finally, dehumanization and violence perpetrated at the level of groups is discussed, covering the small but growing literature focused directly on genocides. Throughout the examination of interpersonal and intergroup violence, it is worth noting that dehumanization plays many roles; it is the cause, catalyst, and consequence of violence.


  • Social Psychology

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