Evaluation of the Importance of bystanders
Staub's model emphasises the importance of bystander intervention in preventing genocide. Doing nothing, it appears, simply allows the killing to continue unrestricted, and may even escalate it.
However, bystander intervention doesn’t necessarily end institutional aggression, as there is an important difference between the effect of intervention on duration and on severity of violence. In international or civil conflict, although intervention by outside agencies such as the UN can shorten a conflict, it might also speed up criminals to step up their genocidal policy within that period of time.
For example, in the Rwanden genocide 800,000 people died in just 100 days, a shocking rate of 8,000 deaths per day.
Evaluation of Dehumanisation
Evidence for the destructive consequences of dehumanisation can be seen in many conflicts such as the Jews in the Holocaust.
However, dehumanisation may also explain violence against immigrants, seen by some as ‘polluting threats to the social order’.
SEE Real-World Application card for greater detail
Real-world application of Dehumanisation
Recent research suggests that personality may play an important role in this respect. Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) is a personality variable which predicts social and political attitudes. People who are high in SDO authorise social hierarchies and inter-group inequality, and see the world as ‘competitive jungle’.
Esses et al. (2008) has shown that individuals high in SDO have a tendency to dehumanise outgroup members, and in particular foreign refugees and asylum seekers.
Media representations of refugees portrayed as violating immigration procedures and trying to cheat the system cause greater dislike in high SDO individuals than in low SDO individuals and lack sympathy for refugees in general.
These negative attitudes become rationalised through ‘legitimising myths’ which indicate to the high SDO individuals that these groups deserve our hostility because they are somehow less human than others.
Evaluation of Obedience to Authority
Mandel (1998) rejects Milgram’s claims that obedience to authority was sufficient to explain the behaviour of Holocaust committers. He argues that Milgram’s account is monocausal* and simply doesn’t match the historical record.
For example, Goldhagen (1996) suggests that the main causal factor in the killings was a form of anti-Semitism so deeply fixed in the Germans at that time that they indirectly ignored the removal of millions of innocent Jews.
*ignores other possible causes