Dehumanizing Prisoners: Remaining Sentence Duration Predicts the Ascription of Mind to Prisoners [2020]

We tested the novel hypothesis that the dehumanization of prisoners varies as a function of how soon they will be released from prison. Seven studies indicate that people ascribe soon-to-be-released prisoners greater mental sophistication than those with more time to serve, all other things being equal. Studies 3 to 6 indicate that these effects are mediated by perceptions that imprisonment has served the functions of rehabilitation, retribution, and future deterrence. Finally, Study 7 demonstrates that beliefs about rehabilitation and deterrence may be the most important in accounting for these effects. These findings indicate that the amount of time left on a prison sentence influences mind ascription to the incarcerated, an effect that has implications for our understanding of prisoner dehumanization.

Jason C. Deska, Steven M. Almaraz, Kurt Hugenberg
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol 46, Issue 11, 2020