Journal of Undergraduate Research


mapping dissonance, empathy, marginalized groups, humanizing


Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science


Previous research highlights the importance of generating empathy for marginalized outgroups as a precursor to changing negative attitudes and behaviors towards them. Politicians and social activists often seek to generate this empathy by “humanizing” marginalized groups through positive media or interpersonal contact. We have previously shown that such attempts at humanization often fail to change the attitudes of those the humanizing message is designed to influence: those with the most negative attitudes towards the outgroup. We hypothesized that this failure could be attributed to cognitive dissonance, positing that individuals who feel a deep sense of dissonance from the positive information and adopt the dissonance reduction strategy of self-justification, are likely to either exhibit no positive change in attitudes, or a backlash, becoming less positive in their attitudes towards the outgroup.