Less than us: Are people hardwired to dehumanize others?

People can be quick to dehumanise others (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being able to quickly assess whether someone is friend or foe has traditionally been helpful in times of war or conflict. But there is also a very ugly side to rushing to judge others. Prejudice, especially for those who are on the receiving end, is an incredibly dehumanising experience — to be dismissed by another person takes away from us our sense of individual human worth. But what does it mean to be dehumanised, and how or why are people capable of dehumanising others? Also, how aware are we of the snap judgments that we make about other people, and can we control the biases we have?

Social psychologist Prof Nick Haslam and I discuss what it means to be dehumanised, and how people are capable of viewing and treating their fellow human beings as less than themselves on this episode of Up Close.

Where’s your compassion? Generation Y and the new empathy deficit

Do Gen Y lack empathy? (Photo credit: Anders Ljungberg)

Humans are extraordinarily social creatures – our ability to form complex communities where we exchange goods and services, as well as knowledge, has no doubt been essential to our success as a species. Empathy is central to our desire to care for and connect with our fellow human beings – whether they are close friends or family, or others in the community that rely on the generous donations of strangers.

But are all humans empathic by nature, or are there some amongst us who struggle to see any perspective other than their own? Are we as empathic as our parents and grandparents, and what are the implications for society as a whole if empathy is on the wane?

I spoke to social psychologist Sara Konrath, from the University of Michigan, about intergenerational differences in empathy, and how this important social attribute seems to be diminishing in Generation Y in the latest episode of Up Close. Sara is Assistant Professor with the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Institute for Social Research and the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan.