The Role of Target “Humanness” on Killing: A Study of Moral Disengagement within a Bug-Killing Paradigm

  • Author / Creator
    Webber, David
  • Dehumanization—the stripping of human qualities from someone—has been theorized to exclude that individual from the bounds of morality, thereby making violent and transgressive behavior perpetrated against that individual acceptable and appropriate. Although past research has indeed found this to be the case, various qualities of these previous findings cloud confidence in the causal nature of these relationships and the relationship between dehumanization and observed behavior. The present studies were designed to provide an experimental examination of the moral exclusion properties of dehumanization on killing behavior. This was accomplished with an experimental bug-killing paradigm in which the humanness of insects was manipulated through anthropomorphism (Studies 1-3) and dehumanization (Study 4) techniques. The present studies also sought to provide evidence for all aspects of the moral disengagement process. As such, participants were more willing to volunteer to kill (Study 1), killed to a greater degree (Studies 2-3), and experienced less guilt for their actions (Studies 3-4) when killing dehumanized (vs. anthropomorphized or neutral) insects. Evidence also revealed that the effects of the humanness manipulations were mediated by participants’ ability to justify their actions as moral. The theoretical implications and importance of these findings within the greater moral disengagement and moral exclusion literatures will be discussed.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
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  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)
    • Masuda, Takahiko (Psychology)
    • Goldenberg, Jamie (Psychology)
    • Passey, Jennifer (Psychology)
    • Noels, Kimberly (Psychology)