Bleeding-heart liberals and hard-hearted conservatives: Subtle political dehumanization through differential attributions of human nature and human uniqueness traits

Crawford, Jarret T.; Modri, Sean A.; Motyl, Matt
Journal of Social and Political Psychology

This research demonstrated that human nature (HN) and human uniqueness (HU) traits capture the content of Americans’ stereotypes about liberals and conservatives, respectively. Consistent with expectations derived from dehumanization theory, people more strongly associated HN traits with liberals than with conservatives, and more strongly associated HU traits with conservatives than with liberals. A trait × target ideology × perceiver ideology × trait valence interaction suggested that both liberals and conservatives more strongly associated their ingroup with stereotype-consistent positive traits, and their outgroup with stereotype-consistent negative traits. Mediation analyses revealed that outgroup antipathy, but not ingroup liking, explained the relationship between ideology and political outgroup dehumanization. Finally, humanness traits captured subtle differences in political stereotype content not captured with the warmth and competence dimensions derived from the stereotype content model. Together, these results indicate that differential attributions of HN and HU traits capture political stereotype content and function to subtly dehumanize one’s political opponents.