In this paper the authors explore the presence of infrahumanization effects when the target is cancer patients. Participants were physicians and nurses working in cancer institutes or oncology departments of hospitals. Participants were asked to judge their own category and that of cancer patients on a set of traits. Uniquely human (e.g., rationality, reasoning) and non-uniquely human traits (e.g., impulse, instinct) were used. Patients were also judged on traits expressing the essence of human nature, such as emotionality and relational capacities. The denial of traits of human nature leads to a type of dehumanization, that is called mechanistic dehumanization. Findings show that both physicians and nurses assign the unique features of human category less to patients than to health professionals (infrahumanization effect). In contrast, effects of mechanistic dehumanization were not revealed. In the discussion, the authors examine the potential consequences of cancer patients’ infrahumanization on the therapeutic relationship and treatment effectiveness.
Keywords: Infrahumanization, mechanistic dehumanization, uniquely human traits, non-uniquely human traits, human nature traits, cancer patient