2 November 2020
Online - see link in description

Seminar: Michal Bilewicz – Hate speech


Hate speech or the speech of contempt? The emotional and normative mechanisms in online derogatory language.

Link to online seminar, see below.



The effects of hate speech on racism, intergroup violence or political radicalization have been a primary focus of social psychological theorizing for decades (Allport, 1954). The recent development of electronic means of communication (social media, news websites, citizen journalism) made hate speech one of the most pressing societal issues and a fertile ground for social psychological theorizing and research. Social psychological research has shown that overhearing hate speech, a derogatory language about minorities or immigrant groups, increases stereotyping, discrimination and even subtle biases and implicit forms of prejudice (see: Bilewicz & Soral, 2020). Although it is known that intergroup verbal aggression can elicit discrimination, the term “hate speech” implies that this process is driven by the emotion of hate.

Based on the existing research on intergroup emotions, we propose that the core emotional mechanism of intergroup verbal aggression is contempt rather than hate. In a large sample correlational study in Poland we analyzed the role of different emotions in generating verbal aggression, as well as intergroup emotions that appear among people exposed to derogatory language. The study suggests that it is contempt rather than hate that mediates the effects of derogatory language exposure on verbal aggression. Additional experimental study tested the reaction to derogatory language using emotion recognition based on facial expressions. This study confirmed that contempt is the most frequently activated emotion when participants are faced with derogatory language about minorities. The key aspect of contempt speech is its power to reduce empathy. In this presentation I would like to present recent studies looking at the potential of inducing empathy as means to confront hate speech.



Michał Bilewicz is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Warsaw where he directs the Center for Research on Prejudice. His research concerns social psychology of intergroup relations, post-conflict reconciliation, and prejudice. Since 2009 he leads the Polish Prejudice Survey, a largest cyclical representative survey program on intergroup relations in Poland. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the New School for Social Research, a DAAD post-doctoral researcher at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena and visiting professor at the University of Leipzig. Currently he leads a large research project on hate speech epidemics funded by the Polish National Science Centre.



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