College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-25-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Linda Camras, PhD

Second Advisor

Joseph Mikels, PhD

Third Advisor

Christine Reyna, PhD


Prior research pertaining to the Stereotype Content Model (SCM) has found that groups stereotyped as “cold and incompetent” (e.g., refugees, homeless people, drug addicts) are most likely to elicit both emotional state contempt and dehumanization. However, no prior studies have examined trait (dispositional) contempt’s relationship with dehumanization towards different SCM-relevant groups. Across two studies, I examined trait contempt as a predictor of dehumanization within the context of the SCM. Trait contempt is characterized by frequent cold feelings towards others and frequently viewing others as incompetent. I therefore proposed that since contemptuous people view their social world through a “cold and incompetent lens,” they may “drag down” all groups into the “cold and incompetent” category of the SCM, thus leading to tendencies to broadly dehumanize others. In keeping with this, I proposed that trait contempt dimensions (subscales) related to coldness (affective and behavioral coldness) and viewing others as incompetent (superiority) drive this relationship, and that trait contempt’s relationship with dehumanization would remain robust even when accounting for stringent controls. I also proposed (Study 2) that trait contempt’s relationship with dehumanization towards groups would be explained (mediated) by perceptions of group warmth and competence. Study 1 included measures of trait contempt, “blatant” dehumanization towards SCM-relevant groups (groups stereotyped as cold/incompetent, cold/competent, warm/incompetent, and warm/competent, along with “people, in general”), and several other personality and attitudinal variables which have previously been found to predict dehumanization and which also may have some conceptual overlap with trait contempt (social dominance orientation, narcissism, and psychopathy), along with political ideology. Study 2 included measures of trait contempt, blatant dehumanization towards groups, warmth and competence ratings towards groups, trait disgust, trait resentment, trait anger, authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, and political ideology. In both studies, trait contempt robustly predicted dehumanization across all target groups even when accounting for all control variables. Trait contempt’s affective/behavioral coldness and superiority subscales both drove this relationship in Study 1, whereas the coldness subscales primarily drove it in Study 2. In Study 2, trait contempt’s relationship with dehumanization was fully or partially mediated by perceptions of warmth and competence across all target groups, supporting the prediction that contemptuous people may dehumanize others because they “drag down” groups into the cold/incompetent category of the SCM. These findings suggest that among negatively valenced trait emotions, trait contempt appears to play a particularly strong and unique role in tendencies to dehumanize others due to its strong (and negative) association with perceptions of group warmth and competence. More broadly, these findings highlight the importance of considering trait contempt as a personality variable of interest when examining dehumanization—and perhaps other social-psychological constructs of interest.

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