Do Friends Help You Be Mean?

Being socially connected has considerable benefits for oneself, but may have negative consequences for evaluations of others. In particular, being socially connected to close others satisfies the need for social connection, and creates disconnection from more distant others. We therefore predicted that feeling socially connected would increase the tendency to dehumanize more socially distant others. Four experiments support this prediction. Those led to feel socially connected were less likely to attribute humanlike mental states to members of various social groups (Exps. 1 & 2), particularly distant others compared to close others (Exp. 3), and were also more likely to recommend harsh treatment for dehumanized others (i.e., terrorist detainees, Exp. 4).

The paper is titled “Social Connection Enables Dehumanization” and the authors are Adam Waytz and Nicholas Epley.

One possible takeaway from the paper is that it helps explain/support the army’s strong devotion to “brotherhood.” If you feel connected to the 25 people around you you’ll not only consciously do everything you can to save them, you’ll unconsciously have an easier time killing the enemy.

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