The Importance of Regulating Language in the Workplace – A Study on the Markers of Trust and Dehumanization

June 10, 2021by Anupriya Kukreja

Summary of:

Montiel, C. J., de la Paz, E., & Cerafica, Z. I. (2019). (De) humanization and trust in an asymmetric Muslim–Christian conflict: Heroes, Kafirs, and Satanas. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 25(4), 300.

Background & Theory

Dehumanization refers to the phenomenon where strangers or members of an outgroup are considered less than human or lack human qualities, while members of one’s own group seem fully human. Studies rarely associate trust with humanization, which are key elements to fostering peace. This study attempts at doing the same in the context of the Muslim–Christian conflict: Heroes, Kafirs, and Satanas in the southern Philippines.

Research Question(s)

The researchers worked on the following question-

    1. Is there any empirical relation between intergroup (de)humanization and trust during asymmetric conflicts?


The authors sourced both conventional and social media reports at the height of the Muslim–Christian intergroup conflict from a day after the armed clash on January 26, 2015, until 5 weeks later on February 28, 2015. They applied mathematical procedures to their data corpus through text mining (Montiel et al., 2017). This corpus consists of newspaper articles and Facebook public posts. They also computed for correlational links between trust and (de)humanization utterances during the Mamasapano controversy.


The researchers found that an identical set of conflict utterances evokes a greater sense of dehumanization from the low-power group, while the high-power group remains relatively unperturbed. They also found that high trust toward one’s ingroup goes hand-in-hand with dehumanizing the enemy. Further, the language of dehumanization occurs through negative religious images like the word kafir or unbeliever for Christians, while Muslims are dehumanized through the use of words like Satanas (Satan) and demonyo (demon).

How This Translates for the Workplace

  1. Build trust– Building trust between communities and departments regularly is a useful investment of time. Look at beliefs and the social environment at work- who is the in-group, who is the out-group? If a certain department has great synergy, they also might likely look at other departments as the “other”, which is not healthy for maintaining peace in the social environment long-term.
  2. Build strong mechanisms against dehumanization– Online platforms often have policies against hate speech. Similarly at work, as this study suggests, there can be subtle forms of dehumanization happening via innocent slurs. Notice the language of employees while addressing each other behind closed doors. This is what shows who is biased and tilted towards stereotypes. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to make your workplace more inclusive!

Anupriya Kukreja

Anupriya Kukreja is a graduate in Political Science and Psychology from Ashoka University in India. She has interned at Hospitals in their psychology departments and worked at reputed policy organizations, as well as been an Albright Fellow at Wellesley College. At PPS, she examines the latest research in international conflict and writes about how such methods may apply to conflict in the workplace. She is also a part of APA Division 48’s official Newsletter "The Peace Psychologist’s" editorial team. Her long-term career goal is to apply the lens of Behaviour science to Public Policy, Conflict Resolution, and Organizational Transformation.

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