Social Justice Research

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 4–25 | Cite as

Justice, Morality, and the Dehumanization of Refugees

  • Victoria M. EssesEmail author
  • Scott Veenvliet
  • Gordon Hodson
  • Ljiljana Mihic


Three studies were conducted to test the role of the dehumanization of refugees (through claims that they are immoral) in determining emotional reactions to refugees, attitudes toward refugees, and attitudes toward current refugee policy in Canada. We also examined determinants of such perceptions. In Studies 1 and 2, correlational analyses and structural equation modeling were utilized. In both studies, it was demonstrated that individuals who are higher in social dominance orientation are especially likely to dehumanize refugees, and this dehumanization leads to greater contempt and lack of admiration for refugees, resulting in less favorable attitudes toward the group and toward the nation’s current refugee policy. Study 3 was an experiment in which we examined the effects of information presented about refugees on emotions and attitudes. Results demonstrated that dehumanizing media depictions of refugees as violating appropriate procedures and trying to cheat the system cause greater contempt and lack of admiration for refugees in general, which in turn lead to less favorable attitudes toward the group and less support for the current refugee policy. Results are discussed in terms of the functions that dehumanization may serve, and potential strategies for counteracting such effects.


Dehumanization Refugees Refugee policy Justice 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria M. Esses
    • 1
    Email author
  • Scott Veenvliet
    • 2
  • Gordon Hodson
    • 3
  • Ljiljana Mihic
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.Tyndale University CollegeTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada

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