Dehumanization of African-Americans Influences Racial Shooter Biases

Yara Mekawi, Konrad Bresin, Carla D. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dehumanization, defined as the psychological process through which others are perceived as being non-human, has been of interest to researchers for many years, in part because of its potential to inform our understanding of how human beings justify harm toward out-groups. The current research extends the literature by using a novel experimental manipulation to investigate dehumanization’s effect on automatic behavior toward out-groups (e.g., racial shooter biases) and examined perceived threat as a moderator. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (African-American dehumanization, white dehumanization, and control). Across two studies (Study 1, n = 290; Study 2, n = 318), those in the African-American dehumanization condition were quicker to correctly shoot armed African-American (vs. white) targets (d = −.21, 95% CI [−.38, −.04]) compared to the other two conditions. This effect was only significant among participants who perceived African-Americans as relatively more threatening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-307
Number of pages9
JournalRace and Social Problems
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Anti-black prejudice
  • Dehumanization
  • Moral disengagement
  • Racial shooter bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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