Immigration: Why the well-meaning ‘successful immigrant’ narrative is faulty

We tend to promote foreigners by broadcasting their economic and scholarly value, instead of their intrinsic humanity.

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  • There's a tendency to fight dehumanizing narratives about immigrants and refugees with stories about how much value they have to the United States, in terms of economic and academic achievements and abilities.
  • Though these counternarratives might come from a good place, Adam Waytz doesn't believe they "really consider people in terms of human dignity." They fail to call out immigrants and refugees inherent dignity.
  • The image of the deceased Aylan Kurdi washed ashore evoked immense sympathy for refugees. Besides showcasing their economic values, it highlighted their shared humanity.
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How neuroscience shows the highs and lows of humanity

Here's what neuroscience and psychology have to say about how people humanize and dehumanize one another.

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  • When humans think about other humans versus inanimate objects, that difference can be seen in activated brain regions on fMRI scans.
  • Studies reveal that those brain regions don't light up equally when we look at all people – we tend to humanize some people and dehumanize others when we see things like homelessness, drug addiction, different ethnicities or someone in an outgroup.
  • On the other hand, humanization can be increased by something seemingly trivial: human touch. Studies show that NBA teams who touch more on the court play better together, and that the touch of a loved one can reduce pain.
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