Embracing humanity in the face of death: Why do existential concerns moderate ingroup humanization?

Jeroen Vaes, Paul G. Bain, Brock Bastian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


People humanize their ingroup to address existential concerns about their mortality, but the reasons why they do so remain ambiguous. One explanation is that people humanize their ingroup to bolster their social identity in the face of their mortality. Alternatively, people might be motivated to see their ingroup as more uniquely human (UH) to distance themselves from their corporeal "animal" nature. These explanations were tested in Australia, where social identity is tied less to UH and more to human nature (HN) which does not distinguish humans from animals. Australians attributed more HN traits to the ingroup when mortality was salient, while the attribution of UH traits remained unchanged. This indicates that the mortality-buffering function of ingroup humanization lies in reinforcing the humanness of our social identity, rather than just distancing ourselves from our animal nature. Implications for (de)humanization in intergroup relations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-545
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Social Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date20 Aug 2014
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Aug 2014


  • human nature
  • human uniqueness
  • ingroup humanization
  • mortality salience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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