College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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religious fundamentalism, prejudice, dehumanizatin, sanctification, infra-humanization


Religious fundamentalism has been related to a variety of prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes and public policy preferences. However, contrary to accounts of fundamentalism as pathological, fundamentalists are physically and mentally healthier than no-fundamentalists (Genia, 1996; Pargament, 2002; Sethi&Seligman, 1993). The purpose of the current paper was to examine both of these fundamentalist outcomes within the same model. In order to capture both positive and negative outcomes of fundamentalism the current paper proposed that people perceived other as greater than or less than human along a dimension of social cognition called the chain of being (cf. Haidt &Algoe, 2004; Lovejoy, 1964/1936). It was proposed that religious fundamentalism and the need for would lead participants to perceive one's ingroup as upholding important values. These perceptions would lead the ingroup to be perceived as lower on this chain of being. Groups that are perceived as lower, less than human, on the chain of being would also face discrimination as a way to protect the ingroup from value violating and threatening outgroups. In order to test these ideas two studies were conducted. In the first study participants rated a variety of target groups on measures of humanness(haslam et al.,2005), sanctification (Mahoney et al., 2003), and moral emotions (e.g. disgust, admiration). Results indicated that participants appeared to rate target entities along a chain of being with some entities perceived as more than human and some perceived as less than human. Additionally, there was some evidence that participants were more likely to rate their ingropu as more than human. this latter evidence, however, was mixed. Additionally, a measure of a moral hierarchy (i.e. moral thermometer) was developed and compared to the measures of humanness and sanctification. Results suggest that this measure captured parts of both sanctification and humanness and allows one to measure the perception of a person or group as above or below human along the same scale. The second study tested the model of fundamentalism that incorporated ideas from the chain of being. Results indicated that fundamentalists' perceptions of an outgroup as violating and threatening religious values lead participants to dehumanize and support discrimination against the outgroup. Additionally, the differences between participants ingroup and outgroup on a hierarchy of morality predicted support for discriminatory public policies. Religious fundamentalism was related to the perception of the ingroup as more than human. The perceptions of the ingroup did not relation to group promoting behavior; however, fundamentalism was a significant and direct predictor of the group promoting attitudes and behaviors. Overall these results suggest that a psychology that does not take the perception of people as more than human into account does not capture the full range of person perception. Furthermore, some religious ideologies may promote the view that ones group is more sacred and these beliefs may inspire more support for the religious group. While the results presented in this paper did not fully confirm the theory, they do provide insight into new directions for research on infra-humanization and religious fundamentalism.