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Humanity esteem

Author: Dr Simon Moss


Humanity esteem, as formulated by Luke and Maio (2009), refers to the extent to which individuals perceive humans in general as favorable, desirable, competent, and trustworthy. Individuals who report humanity esteem also tend to exhibit higher self esteem. In addition, they are less inclined to feel alienated from society. Finally, and interestingly, they are less inclined to discriminate unfairly.

After individuals are exposed to images or anecdotes that depict humans positively--as ambitious, altruistic, compliant, and creative, for example--humanity esteem increases. In other words, these images alone are sufficient to enhance self esteem as well as curb discrimination.

Correlates of humanity esteem

Humanity esteem and discrimination

Individuals who report an elevated level of humanity esteem exhibit less discrimination. That is, they might reject a job applicant merely because of the age, gender, ethnicity, or weight of the person.

Specifically, according to Luke and Maio (2009), individuals who perceive humanity as undesirable do not necessarily disdain all humans. In particular, they might respect members of their own constituencies or collectives. They will, therefore, often perceive some groups as superior to other groups.

To illustrate, in a study conducted by Luke and Maio (2009), participants assumed the role of a manager, deciding which job applicants to select. In particular, five pairs of applicants were presented. For each pair, the individuals were both suitable candidates, but differed on one extraneous characteristic, such as weight, nationality, ethnicity, age, or gender. Participants were instructed to select one of these two applicants. Next, they were asked to specify the extent to which they prefer one applicant over the other individual.

If participants reported an elevated humanity esteem, they did not differentiate pairs of applicants who diverged on an extraneous characteristic only. That is, their preferences were not sizably affected by the weight, nationality, ethnicity, age, or gender of applicants.

Associations between distinct levels of esteem

Luke and Maio (2009) maintained, and then demonstrated, that various levels of esteem--self, collective, and humanity--are related to one another. That is, from the perspective of self categorization theory, people can define themselves at various levels of specificity (see Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987). At the subordinate level, individuals conceptualize themselves as a unique entity--distinct from other people. To enhance their self esteem, they contrast themselves to other individuals, striving to outperform these people on key qualities. At an intermediate level, individuals conceptualize themselves as member of collectives, such as clubs, workgroups, and associations, which share key values, attitudes, beliefs, and norms. To enhance their collective esteem, they might exclude anyone who violates these values or norms, called the black sheep effect (Marquez, Yzerbyt, & Leyens, 1998). Finally, at the superordinate level, individuals are cognizant of their membership of the human race, contrasting themselves with other life forms, such as animals and plants (Opotow, 1993).

From this perspective, the self is conceptualized as a member of a collective, and the collective is conceptualized as a facet of humanity. Favorable perceptions of humanity in general might thus cascade to perceptions of the self. Consistent with this possibility, individuals who tend to perceive humans favorably perceive their collectives and themselves favorably as well. The correlation between humanity and self esteem was approximately .45 (Luke & Maio, 2009). The correlation between humanity esteem and collective esteem varied from .25 to .40 (Luke & Maio, 2009)& attitudes towards a collective they nominated, such as "psychology students", general represented collective esteem.

Measures and manipulations of humanity esteem

Measures of humanity esteem

Luke and Maio (2009) derived their measure of humanity esteem from the Rosenberg scale of self esteem. Each question in the Rosenberg scale was adapted to pertain to humanity in general. To illustrate, the question "On the whole, I am satisfied with myself" was modified to "On the whole, I am satisfied with the evolution of humanity". Likewise, the question "I wish I could have more respect for myself" was modified to "I wish I could have more respect for humanity in general".

Confirmatory factor analysis confirmed the measure of humanity esteem does correspond to one factor. In particular, four models, as recommended by Jarvis and Petty (1996), were assessed. One model evaluated the proposition that all the items relate to one factor. The second model was identical, but also entailed the assumption that all items shared the same measurement error. The third model assessed the proposition that positively and negatively worded items represent distinct factors. The fourth model also presupposed two factors, but entailed the assumption that items shared the same measurement error. The second model was supported, with RMSEA approximating .08, and did not diminish when two factors were differentiated.

Furthermore, Luke and Maio (2009) established the reliability of this measure. Internal consistency was .77. Furthermore, test-retest reliability, over a period of two months, was .73.

Finally, Luke and Maio (2009) also developed a version of this measure that comprises only one item--"Overall, how favorable are you toward human beings in general". This item was highly related to the full scale, with the correlation approximating .60. Test-retest reliability of this single item, over a two month period, was .56.

Manipulations of humanity esteem

Luke and Maio (2009) also showed that esteem can be evoked in the laboratory. In one of their studies, participants were exposed to 20 images. Half of the participants were exposed to images that depicted behaviors that align with universal human values--including ambitious pursuits, altruistic endeavors, respect towards traditions, and creative undertakings (Schwartz, 1992). A description was presented below each image. The description "Families are the building blocks for societies across the world" appeared below an image of a child kissing an elderly relative.

The other participants were exposed to images that depicted behaviors that contradict universal human values. An example is an image of a Palestinian man, with a dying boy in his arms, represented by the description "Unrest in the Middle East has led to the death of innocent victims".

This manipulation did shape the humanity esteem of participants. After participants were exposed to images that reinforced universal human values, they were more likely to perceive both themselves and humans in general more favorably. They were also less inclined to differentiate two job applicants who diverged on only extraneous or superficial features.

Related measures

Many previous scales gauge attitudes that overlap with humanity esteem. Rosenberg (1956), for example, developed and validated the faith in people scale--a measure of misanthropy. That is, like the measure of humanity esteem, this scale gauges the extent to which respondents perceive humans favorably.

Nevertheless, in contrast to humanity esteem, the faith in people scale primarily represents beliefs about particular qualities: the extent to which humans are trustworthy, generous, and good, for example. In contrast, humanity esteem represents attitudes towards human nature in general.

Similarly, several other cognate scales have been formulated: the doubt about trustworthiness of people scale (Schuesler, 1982) and the philosophies of human nature scale (Wrightsman, 1992). These scales, according to Luke and Maio (2009), primarily relate to whether humans can be trusted--which is putatively more specific than human esteem. Nevertheless, Luke and Maio (2009) did uncover a sizeable inverse relationship between distrust of humans, as measured by the doubt about trustworthiness of people scale, and humanity esteem& the correlation approximated -0.42.


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Last Update: 6/29/2016