Liesbeth Mann: "On Feeling Humiliated. The Experience of Humiliation in Interpersonal, Intragroup, and Intergroup Contexts"

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Liesbeth Mann: "On Feeling Humiliated. The Experience of Humiliation in Interpersonal, Intragroup, and Intergroup Contexts"

On January 27, 2017 Liesbeth Mann successfully defended the PhD thesis entitled "On Feeling Humiliated. The Experience of Humiliation in Interpersonal, Intragroup, and Intergroup Contexts" at University of Amsterdam.

Prof. dr. Bertjan Doosje (UvA), Prof. dr. Agneta Fischer (UvA)

Dr. Allard Feddes (UvA)


Humiliation is an intensely negative and complex emotion, familiar to many people. This dissertation focused on the determinants, strength, emotion relations, and consequences of feelings of humiliation in different contexts.

In an interpersonal context (Chapter 2), we found that negative audience behaviour (laughter) during a humiliating episode increased reported humiliation. At the same time, positive audience behaviour (social support) did not decrease humiliation. Possibly, the public nature of such support enhances the salience of a humiliating act which leads the victim to perceive him- or herself as more, rather than less, victimized.

In Chapter 3 we studied humiliation during initiation rituals in student fraternities. Contrary to the often assumed affiliative function of degrading practices (i.e., hazing) during such rituals, we found evidence that humiliation during initiations leads to more distance between group members. However, we found that feelings of humiliation and a tendency to withdraw from others in such contexts are less strong when people are hazed together with other group members rather than alone, in front of the group. This effect could be explained by expected social support from the group.

In Chapter 4 we studied group-based humiliation and its relation with intergroup aggression. We found that reported humiliation caused by a defeat of the in-group predicted aggressive action tendencies towards an out-group that was unrelated to the defeat. We also found that glorification of, but not attachment to, the in-group, predicted humiliation about the defeat and aggressive tendencies towards the out-group. The relation between in-group glorification and aggression could be partially explained by humiliation and out-group hate. It thus seems that people who strongly glorify their group are more prone to feel humiliated about a past defeat of their group, which, in turn, predicts out-group hate and an inclination to respond aggressively towards the out-group, even though the out-group was not involved in the humiliating defeat.

Taken together the studies in this dissertation show that humiliation is an emotion that is particularly prone to reinforcement by other people’s negative behaviour and, at the same time, has great potential to evoke antisocial behaviour in the victim toward others. Thus, unlike other negative emotions, humiliation is clearly dysfunctional when it comes to the formation and maintenance of good relationships, whether this is between individuals, within a group or between groups.

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