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Social Psychology Speaker Series: Piercarlo Valdesolo, “Moral Harm Needs No Dehumanization”

The social psychology program at CGU calls its colloquium/symposium meetings “Social Socials” because they are doubly social—they are about social psychology and they are a social event that brings together faculty, students, visitors and anyone who is interested in social psychology. Social Socials invites social psychologists to come talk about their recent/current research on a wide variety of topics. Everyone with an interest in social psychology is welcome. Lunch will be provided.

This event will feature Piercarlo Valdesolo, PhD, professor of Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

Talk Title: Moral Harm Needs No Dehumanization

Research on dehumanization (e.g. Kteily et al 2015) and mind perception (e.g. Schein & Gray, 2017) combine to tell a clear story about when and why humans commit and endorse violence against others: motivations to harm are facilitated by seeing others as somehow less than human. Through denying victims’ mental states, we relax the psychological processes that normally inhibit us from committing or endorsing harm against them. We morally disengage. This talk will present research that complicates this approach by drawing a distinction between two kinds of violence (instrumental and moral), showing how dehumanization facilitates the former but not the latter, and further showing that the endorsement of moral violence often involves perceiving humanness in the mind of those we want to harm.