The Perception of Instability and Legitimacy of Status Differences Enhances the Infrahumanization Bias among High Status Groups


  • Cristina Mosso
  • Silvia Russo


Previous research within the social identity framework has shown that perceptions of legitimacy and stability of status differences interactively determine cognitive, emotional, and behavioural responses to intergroup contexts. Whether such perceptions affect subtle forms of prejudice, namely infrahumanisation, is unknown. We examined if the perceptions regarding high status stability and legitimacy are associated to the infrahumanisation bias. We hypothesized that participants perceiving status differences as unstable and legitimate would report higher levels of infrahumanization than those who perceive status differences as stable and/or illegitimate. Participants (N = 439 Italian students enrolled in psychology courses) completed a structured paper-and-pencil questionnaire. We found that participants tended to attribute more negative secondary emotions to their ingroup (Italians) than to the outgroup (immigrants from Africa), indicating the presence of an infrahumanization bias. The results of a moderated regression aimed at predicting infrahumanization showed that high-status group members who perceived status differences as legitimate and unstable reported higher levels of infrahumanization than their counterparts did. The results attest the important and independent role of the perceptions related to the status for the debate on intergroup relations.