Focus on the Psychology of Dehumanization

In times of conflict the involved parties often see their opponents as dangerous, inhumane, or even evil. According to psychologists, when we look down on one another, see others as lesser human beings, or violate human rights, we have entered into a dangerous psychological process called dehumanization. Throughout history it has been shown that this process opens doors to human rights violations, war crimes, and genocide. Dehumanization stems from a combination of intense fear, indifference, apathy and hatred. We dehumanize those that we perceive as a threat to our well being or values. Main criteria being a different ethnic background, skin color, ideology, or physical capacity.

Although all people have basic human rights, during dehumanization morality and justice are ignored, and any harm that occurs tends to usually be morally justified. Internally, we create images of our perceived opponent, which are usually negative stereotypes based on fear, hatred, and anger. These negative emotions, make it is quite difficult to feel compassion towards one’s enemy. Everything becomes black and white, and we often think we must either win or lose. This is where we find faults in our opponents and intent to classify them as immoral, inhumane, dangerous, or evil.

“Dehumanization or the expulsion from humanity makes rights violations a lot easier – easier to justify, also to one’s own conscience – because there can be no human rights violations if the victim is not really human or less then human. A non-human does not have human rights.” – Filip Spagnoli, PhD, author.

Psychologists advise that during this part we often tend to project our own faults onto others, making us blind to our own errors. This further increases chances of conflict and opens doors to more dehumanization.

Normal people expect justice when injustice occurs. When this does not occur, people lose trust, faith, become hardened, bitter or even apathetic towards others. Furthermore, compassion or empathy – the human bond – is neutralized when we see injustice go unpunished, rewarded or even glorified.   All this has a dehumanizing effect on the general public and creates divisions. Dehumanization can occur in any context that shows a lack of empathy. It occurs between countries, regions, political parties, sporting teams, partners, and co-workers, and is present in all types of media. In fact, every time we lose respect for someone, and are unable to tolerate the difference, dehumanization can take place.

A good reflection of how humane we are towards one another, is not only to look at what happens in real life but also in cyberspace, especially in those chat rooms and forums. Because of the added hidden identity factor, it is much easier for people to post dehumanizing and abusive comments. When the need to be right dominates, and egos clash, any situation can show a lack the humanness and respect. The concerning point is that this can happen in general society.

Humanity must realize that all that is human must always take priority, whether it is a man-made global warming, or an overpopulation problem. When we allow ourselves to be completely dehumanized, we will end up fighting each other with dire consequences.

Regaining of humanity must be achieved through the development of empathy, and the establishment of personal relationships between conflicting parties. We should learn to live peacefully and be tolerant and respectful of different opinions.

“Every city in this “civilization,” as they call it, has more chimneys than Adolph Hitler could have ever dreamed of. Women have been taught that removing a fetus—the dehumanized name for just a baby, as you must always demonize your enemy and dehumanize your enemy—”getting rid of a fetus is just like getting rid of a wart,” they say. That’s what all of us have become, just removable disposable tumors.” – Extract from Alan Watt’s Blurb “Modern Mythological Enemies Versus the Man in the Mirror – Psychological Projection in the Scientific Era” July 4, 2007. (

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