CORDIS - EU research results

Infrahumanization:The Effects of Uniquely Human and Non-Uniquely Human Emotions on Justice

Final Report Summary - JUSTICE_HUMANNESS (Infrahumanization:The Effects of Uniquely Human and Non-Uniquely Human Emotions on Justice)

The project examined the role that emotions with different social and cognitive value –namely, uniquely human (UH) versus non-uniquely human(NUH) emotions- experienced by a victim, and group membership of the victim, play in administration of justice. According to the Justice theory literature intentional harms require both compensation in favor of the victim and punishment of the harm-doer. Three different kinds of punishment have been detected so far; retributive, is a proportionate to the harm punishment (a more lenient and emotionally oriented punishment), while utilitarian, is a more severe punishment (harsh and rationally oriented) than the harm displayed. Finally, restorative is a very empathic type of punishment which aims at helping the harm-doer to improve his personality and reintegrate in the society. This is the first study to explore the role that emotions with different social value (i.e. UH vs. NUH) attributed to the victim might play in justice. According to the infra-humanization theory, UH emotions are highly valued compared to NUH ones, as they differentiate humans from animals. People attribute UH emotions mostly to the ingroup rather than outgroup, while such a bias does not occur regarding NUH emotions.This project tested people’s moral judgments depending on whether negative UH or NUH emotions were attributed to the ingroup or outgroup victim. We conducted two studies and showed that a) stronger sanctions to the harm-doer (compensation in favor of the victim and punishment) were imposed mostly when negative UH emotions were caused to an ingroup victim while the emotional reaction of the observers mediated this relationship. The second study confirmed the above findings and also showed that when an outgoup victim experiences NUH negative emotions (emotions with decreased social value as they are also experienced by the animals) the observer assigns stronger and more utilitarian punishment to the harm-doer.

Conclusions and socioeconomic impact of the project
The current project, which focused on intriguing social issues such as biased or even discriminatory judicial practices towards victimized outgroups attempts to reveal the importance of “human essence” and group membership (ingroup/outgroup) on judgmental processes, underlining the substantial role that “violation of human nature” plays in justice outcomes. The project showed that the characteristic that determines whether harm-doer is to be blamed or not, and whether harm-doer is to be punished or not, depends on whether the victim is ingroup or outgroup member as well as on whether the victim has experienced high or lower social value emotions (UH or NUH emotions). Although the current project did not directly examine issues related to intergroup relations in Europe, findings might indisputably generalize to political, social and economic issues that Europe faces nowadays (i.e. European economic crisis and “inhumane” measures applied to groups with decreased socio-economic power, refugees crisis and measures applied in order to provide help or in the opposite to marginalize refugees ets.).
It is believed that Europe, and mainly nations of European Union, might place much emphasis on how intergroup relations might improve. Considering the role of humanness and the ramifications that perceived violation of individuals‟ human essence causes may show Europe the way to propose viable solutions in future issues that will be respected and adopted by everyone no matter how hard they are. The timeliness as well as the importance of such issues in Europe render the current results very interesting.

Wider societal implications of the project
This project explored a very interesting and timely topic for Europe, that is the effects of experience of negative emotions of different social value (UH vs. NUH) by different group members (ingroups/outgroups) on preferences for administering justice. This is a really interesting topic especially for Europe, given the intense inter-group conflicts that have occurred the last years as a result of the economic crisis and the refugees issue. The project showed that justices cannot be administered in a really objective way, on the contrary it is biased by group membership and quality of emotions experienced by victimized groups. This rationale is implicitly close to the current intergroup issues that Europe faces, that is the conflict between Northern and Southern European nations, dominance orientation of strong and wealthy “humane” nations against weak nations and maltreatment of refugees, witnessing the unconscious infrahumanizing tactics involved. By detecting these implicit ways of marginalization of the outgroups, European Research Area is able to propose new ways of solving social phenomena linked to racism and discrimination.