Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Political Science

Committee Chair(s)

David Goetze


David Goetze


E. Helen Berry


Michael Lyons


War and the consequences of war have long been a subject of study in the field of political science. In addition, much debate and disagreement has centered around which factors are most important in determining the onset of war. Based on previous literature that has established fairly consistent gender differences with respect to the gendered role of warfare (Goldstein, 2001; Marini, 1990), I speculate that gender may also influence polarization attitudes, which are thought to act as precursors to war. Whenever the attitudes of ingroups rapidly polarize and their members become extremely fearful of an outgroup, begin to dehumanize outgroup members, treat them as inferior, and begin to perceive the outgroup as morally depraved, we may be witnessing a process that primes individuals to participate in violent actions, including war, directed at members of the outgroup. Traumatic events, such as murderous acts against members of an ingroup, may trigger a polarization process. Similarly, hate speeches, that is, attempts by elites to convince members of an ingroup that there is an imminent and real threat posed by outgroups, may also trigger polarization. After exposure to one of these traumatic events, undergraduate students at Utah State University were asked to report their fear, dehumanization, and moral depravity attitudes towards three distinct outgroups-- Al Qaeda, Muslims, and undocumented immigrants. These results were compared to students who were not exposed to a traumatic event and examined for statistically significant differences. Results were also broken down by gender within each treatment group in order to indicate if men and women reacted differently in their attitudes towards outgroups after exposure to traumatic events. Results indicate that gender may act as a mediating variable in the polarization process, particularly after exposure to hate speech.


This work made publicly available electronically on August 30, 2011.