Bioethics Blogs

Apparently most people don’t see homeless people as human beings

A little video is circling the internet which shows the reactions of homeless people on nasty tweets about them. Apparently this is necessary to show the world that homeless people have feelings too. Research of Harris and Fiske (2010) showed that many people don’t see homeless people as real human beings. Harris and Fiske made brain scans of regular people looking at objects and human beings. When looking at human beings, the medial prefrontal cortex was activated, which is involved in social cognition. When looking at objects, the medial prefrontal cortex didn’t lit up, and the same happened when they saw pictures of heavy marginalized groups like substance dependent or homeless people. I found a same sentiment reflected in a recent blog post here, that basically came down to the conclusion that homeless people are not worthy (or not worthy enough) of our money. Homeless people were portrayed as professional beggars who make tons of money collecting our 50 cents. And they don’t use their fortunes to improve their lives, but to buy drugs or alcohol.
I did quite a lot of research in homeless shelters. For one project I would spend weeks at the time in shelters, recruiting people. I can tell you, it really got under my skin. When I would come home on a Friday evening after a week’s work, I would feel very numb after spending so much time in a ward with 20 other people, the constant noise of a tv, having to ask for a key to use the bathroom, having no private space.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.