Human Objectification: A Relation Frame Theory Account of Prejudice and Stigma

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The negative impact of stigma and prejudice on society is vast, affecting countless numbers of groups. Most known interventions targeting human objectification, such as the Contact Hypothesis and the Multicultural approach, generally highlight different aspects of the social context. Contact hypotheses emphasize contingencies in the environment, whereas educational approaches highlight more verbal processes. However, neither approach has adequately explained the psychological processes underlying the phenomena of stigmatization. In this paper we will present an account of stigma and prejudice from Relational Frame Theory (RFT). As part of the Functional Contextualism tradition, RFT emphasizes the aims of precision, scope and depth and thus may provide a more adequate approach to analyzing human objectification in a way that will lead to both prediction and influence. This presentation will argue that language is at the root of this problem, and that human's capacity to derive arbitrary relations among events, fosters human objectification in ways that overcome previous attempts to reduce it. We will end by briefly reviewing recent basic and applied research relating to this RFT account as well as their implications for reducing the phenomena of human objectification.

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