Dehumanization is an important element of legal theorizing about property confiscation by state or governmental authorities that result in dignity takings. Psychologists have theorized about dehumanization for decades, yet have only been able to subject the topic to empirical examination over the last 15 years or so. Moving the topic from the armchair to the laboratory has revealed a number of surprises to lay theories about dehumanization. First, everyone is capable of dehumanizing another person. Second, the social context determines when dehumanization takes place. Third, dehumanization does not always lead to negative behavior. Fourth, dehumanization is functional, allowing the completion of a task at hand. Fifth, dehumanization avoids empathy exhaustion. Here, I will summarize the state of the psychological literature on dehumanization, and explain the impact of dehumanization in a legal context by reviewing the few such studies in the literature. I will then review how each of the five scientific discoveries regarding dehumanization applies to the concept of dignity takings, as discussed in the other papers in this review. I will also consider a distinction in the use of the concept of dehumanization regarding dignity takings compared to the psychological literature. Finally, I will conclude by discussing further implications for property, labor, health-care, and education law regarding dehumanization and dignity takings.
Lasana T. Harris,
Dignity Takings and Dehumanization: A Social Neuroscience Perspective,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol92/iss3/4