A Physiological Basis For Infra-humanization: The Link Between Skin Conductance and Empathy
The proposed study investigates the relationship between one facet of implicit form of racism known as infra-humanization (Leyens, 2000) and the physiological measurement of galvanic skin conductance (GSR), which is electrical activity in the skin that is related to the sympathetic nervous system. Infra-humanization is the process by which one unconsciously renders members of an out-group as less than human by denying them the capacity of experiencing uniquely human emotions. Further research has shown that members of an in-group who are reminded of past atrocities committed against an outgroup 1 tend to infra-humanize the out-group more to avoid guilty feelings. Because GSR is a good measurement of sympathetic nervous system activity it can be used to measure emotional response. It is predicted that infra-humanization as produced by reminders of past atrocities against an out-group will produce lower, or not significantly different from the baseline, GSR measurements thus showing a correlation between physiological response and infra-humanization as caused by guilt.