A Superhumanization Bias in Whites’ Perceptions of Blacks

Adam Waytz*, Kelly Marie Hoffman, Sophie Trawalter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations


The present research provides the first systematic empirical investigation into superhumanization, the attribution of supernatural, extrasensory, and magical mental and physical qualities to humans. Five studies test and support the hypothesis that White Americans superhumanize Black people relative to White people. Studies 1–2b demonstrate this phenomenon at an implicit level, showing that Whites preferentially associate Blacks versus Whites with superhuman versus human words on an implicit association test and on a categorization task. Studies 3–4 demonstrate this phenomenon at an explicit level, showing that Whites preferentially attribute superhuman capacities to Blacks versus Whites, and Study 4 specifically shows that superhumanization of Blacks predicts denial of pain to Black versus White targets. Together, these studies demonstrate a novel and potentially detrimental process through which Whites perceive Blacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-359
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015



  • dehumanization
  • intergroup relations
  • prejudice
  • stereotyping
  • superhumanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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