Dangerous Speech: A Cross-Cultural Study of Dehumanization and Revenge

Jordan Kiper, Christine Lillie, Richard A. Wilson, Brock Knapp, Yeongjin Gwon, Lasana T. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dehumanization is routinely invoked in social science and law as the primary factor in explaining how propaganda encourages support for, or participation in, violence against targeted outgroups. Yet the primacy of dehumanization is increasingly challenged by the apparent influence of revenge on collective violence. This study examines critically how various propaganda influence audiences. Although previous research stresses the dangers of dehumanizing propaganda, a recently published study found that only revenge propaganda significantly lowered outgroup empathy. Given the importance of these findings for law and the behavioral sciences, this research augments that recent study with two additional samples that were culturally distinct from the prior findings, showing again that only revenge propaganda was significant. To explore this effect further, we also conducted a facial electromyography (fEMG) among a small set of participants, finding that revenge triggered significantly stronger negative emotions against outgroups than dehumanization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-200
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Cognition and Culture
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Bayesian regression
  • dehumanization
  • facial electromyography (fEMG)
  • international criminal tribunals
  • propaganda
  • speech crime trials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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