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Invisible MindFlexible Social Cognition and Dehumanization$
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Lasana T. Harris

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035965

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035965.001.0001

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Social Contract

Social Contract

(p.153) 9 Social Contract
Invisible Mind

Lasana T. Harris

The MIT Press

The ninth chapter argues that the law punishes bad minds, not bad people; as a result, social cognition is paramount in legal decision-making. It then reviews the psychological literature on punishment, discussing motives. It then uses the racial history of America as a case study, highlighting how historic dehumanization during and after slavery shaped modern American racial problems. It reviews the literature on racial bias and the brain, then discusses the ‘black ape’ stereotype as a form of continued dehumanization of people of African descent in America. It then explores police shootings of people of African descent as a continuation of a dehumanization tradition in America, highlighting the role of flexible social cognition in facilitating these behaviors. Finally, it ends by recommending that labels like ‘African American’ need to be abandonned if American society is ever to move beyond its racial problems; a superordinate category is required that reduces arbitrary distinctions based on the social construction of race.

Keywords:   Racially motivated police shootings, Racism, Racial bias, Dehumanization, Dehumanisation, Slavery, Black ape stereotype

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