The Open Psychology Journal

ISSN: 1874-3501 ― Volume 12, 2019

Animal, Human and Robot Attribution: Ontologization of Roma, Romanian and Chinese Groups in an Italian Sample

Monica Pivetti*, Silvia Di Battista, Milena Pesole, Antonella Di Lallo, Benedetta Ferrone, Chiara Berti
Department of Psychological Health and Territorial Sciences (Di.S.P.U.Ter.), University G. d'Annunzio of Chieti-Pescara, via dei Vestini 31, 66100, Chieti Scalo, Italy



The socio-psychological ontologization approach focuses on the attribution of a different “ontology” to outgroup members, that is the attribution of animal (or natural) attributes to the outgroup, and human (or cultural) attributes to the ingroups.


This study aims to enrich the ontologization approach in two ways: (1) A theoretical development of the ontologization approach is proposed, by including the attribution of the essence of automata to outgroup members; (2) whether the ontologization process is also verified for the Romanian and Chinese group is investigated, whereas the ontologization process has traditionally focused on the Roma minority.


This study explores the ontologization process of an ingroup member, a Roma, Romanian and Chinese immigrant target via the attribution of a set of six randomly ordered animal, human and robot associates to one of the four targets (N = 269). We tested the idea that devaluation of Chinese immigrants relies on a mechanistic form of ontologization, instead of an animalistic one, such as the case for the Roma and Romanian groups.


The study confirms the animalization of Roma and Romanian targets in Italy. Both groups were ontologized by attributing animal-like associates to them and denying human-like associates. The Chinese target was ontologized based on a mechanistic approach as it was attributed a more automata-like dimension than an animal or human dimension.


The pattern of the results regarding the association between the Roma and Romanian outgroup and animal-status may have negative consequences for intergroup relations in terms of reduced prosocial and increased antisocial behaviours.

Keywords: Ontologization, Dehumanization, Roma immigrant, Romanian immigrant, Chinese immigrant, Mechanistic approach.

Article Information

Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2018
Volume: 11
First Page: 65
Last Page: 76
Publisher Id: TOPSYJ-11-65
DOI: 10.2174/1874350101811010065

Article History:

Received Date: 28/11/2017
Revision Received Date: 03/03/2018
Acceptance Date: 02/04/2018
Electronic publication date: 25/04/2018
Collection year: 2018

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© 2018 Pivetti et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Psychological, Health and Territorial Sciences (Di.S.P.U.Ter.), University G. d'Annunzio of Chieti-Pescara, via dei Vestini 31, 66100, Chieti Scalo, Italy; Tel/Fax: +39.0871.3556592; E-mail:


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