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Jamie S. Hughes
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Texas of the Permian Basin
Local vs. Foreign Tragedy: Applying Social Psychological Principles of Prejudice and Dehumanization

This case study challenges students to understand and apply a set of concepts from the domain of social psychology to an inflammatory article that was published in The Guardian. Students prepare by reading a chapter on prejudice and stereotyping and then read the article that was written following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The author argues that Americans are prejudiced against Pakistanis and Muslims. He suggests that the shared outrage about the Newtown shootings on the one hand, and the indifference toward Pakistani children killed as a result of the "war on terror" on the other hand, provides evidence of Muslim dehumanization. Students who engage in this activity will 1) identify passages that demonstrate social psychological concepts, 2) apply social psychological concepts to a real life event, 3) determine which theory best predicts a specific response, 4) evaluate an argument, and 5) chose an alternative theory which could help explain a phenomenon. The case is particularly appropriate for social science courses in which prejudice and stereotyping concepts are relevant.