Rehumanization as an intervention for disgust-based prejudice : the case of ableism
May 8, 2019
Ableism is a pervasive form of prejudice that affects the world’s largest minority group, yet ableism has been overlooked by psychologists. The emotion of disgust may play a key role in disability prejudice as it is rooted in the avoidance of cues that predict the presence of pathogens, and the non-conforming bodies and behaviors of people with disabilities (PWD) may be mistaken for pathogen cues. Dehumanizing rhetoric is used by powerful groups to maintain their privilege by rendering outgroups as disgusting, as disgust polices the animal-human boundary. Rehumanization may be a potential intervention to reduce disgust, and consequently prejudice. The present study used participants (N = 150) from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (M Turk) to analyze the existence of ableism and its connection to disgust sensitivity, as well as to test the use of a humanizing intervention video to decrease negative attitudes toward PWD. Ableism was extremely prevalent amongst participants and was correlated with disgust sensitivity, suggesting a basis of disgust in disability prejudice. The humanizing video did not reveal a significant effect on negative attitudes of PWD. This finding contradicts previous research and may be due to the salience of the intervention as well as the reliability of the M Turk worker participants. It is therefore important to continue work on the use of humanization to decrease disability prejudice as it addresses the basis of ableism in disgust and holds practical implications for reducing such a prevalent marginalization.
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