Overlooking others: Dehumanization by comission and omission

Adam Waytz*, Juliana Schroeder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Dehumanization, the denial of fundamentally human capacities to others, has contributed to largescale intergroup conflict and violence, ranging from the Holocaust, to American slavery, to Rwandan warfare between the Hutus and Tutsis. The type of dehumanization that emerges in these contexts typically stems from the motives to represent others actively and overtly as subhuman (e.g., Jews as vermin, African Americans as apelike, Tutsis as cockroaches) and to justify and facilitate aggression toward that group. Representing others as subhuman denies them fundamental human rights for freedom and protection from harm. Although psychology has primarily focused on this active, aggressive, and inter-group-oriented form of dehumanization, which we call dehumanization by commission, a more common form of dehumanization exists in everyday life. We call this form dehumanization by omission, a passive process whereby people overlook, or fail to recognize, others' fundamentally human mental capacities, as opposed to denying them these capacities actively. Here, we document the two forms of dehumanization - by commission and by omission - and describe their antecedents, psychological importance, and consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-266
Number of pages16
JournalTPM - Testing, Psychometrics, Methodology in Applied Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • Dehumanization
  • Mind perception
  • Person perception
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Overlooking others: Dehumanization by comission and omission'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this