The role of agency in dehumanization

Current project leader: Magdalena Formanowicz

Description: Dehumanization refers to the denial of human qualities to individuals or groups. This process predominantly affects those who are constrained in their access to full political or economic rights, that is, groups that have limited autonomy or agency, understood in terms of the ability to pursue goals and affect one’s fate. This limited agency can contribute to groups being perceived as less human, which suggests that seeing others as lower in agency likely mediates the link between social disadvantage and dehumanization. In this project, we test the basic effect and its potential extensions, along with interventions aiming at the decrease of dehumanization of disadvantaged groups. 


  • Initiator Grant of the University of Bern. Dehumanization and Agency. (2015)
  • The Faculty Research Support Funds for academic staff and research fellows of University of Surrey grant. Ambivalent Responses to Agentic Targets. (2018)

Representative Publications:

  • Formanowicz, M., Goldenberg, A., Saguy, T., Pietraszkiewicz, A., Walker, M., & Gross, J. J. (2018). Understanding dehumanization: The role of agency and communion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 77, 102–116. 
  • Bettinsoli, M. L., & Formanowicz, M. (2022). A cross-cultural replication on humanness attribution: The role of agency and communion ascriptions. Social Psychology, 53(4), 221–232. 
  • Formanowicz, M., Witkowska, M., Bettinsoli, M. L., & Jurek, P. (2023). Successful groups are seen as more agentic and therefore more human – Consequences for group perception. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 108, 104490.