Purdue University Graduate School
2023.6.14 Sharon Li - Dissertation FINAL.pdf (1.37 MB)

People, Not Robots: The Mechanistic Dehumanization of Asian Americans and Its Workplace Implications

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posted on 2023-06-14, 14:30 authored by Sharon LiSharon Li

Past theory and research have documented several stereotypes that explain why biases against Asian Americans (AAs) in U.S. organizations can occur, such as the Model Minority Stereotype (MMS) and Perpetual Foreigner Syndrome (PFS). The current project expands on past work by proposing a new perspective of stereotypes driving (mis)treatment of AAs: Mechanistic dehumanization. Specifically, I argue that AAs are seen as more robot-like compared to other racial groups in the U.S., which may explain some of the negative workplace treatments they face. To test this phenomenon, I conducted a set of five pre-registered studies to examine the extent to which AAs tend to be more mechanistically dehumanized than other racial groups in the U.S., and its workplace implications. In a pilot study (N = 1,003), the results revealed that East, South, and Southeast AAs tended to be mechanistically dehumanized and internalized this dehumanization more than other groups. In Study 1 (Study 1a, N= 255; Study 1b, N = 427), a survey and experimental study provided support that AA coworkers are more mechanistically dehumanized than White American coworkers, and this mediated the relationship between coworker race and negative work outcomes (e.g., less perceived leadership potential, more exploitative treatment, and less workplace friendship). In another survey study, Study 2 (N = 473) found that mechanistic dehumanization exhibited incremental validity in predicting negative work outcomes for AAs, above and beyond MMS and PFS. Finally, in Study 3 (N = 477), an all-Asian sample found that AAs’ internalization of mechanistic dehumanization predicted more negative work outcomes (e.g., increased burnout, less workplace friendship), above and beyond MMS and PFS. Altogether, the current work supports a mechanistic dehumanization account of bias against AAs, reveals racial subgroup differences, and provides a novel explanation for why AAs experience certain workplace inequities. 


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Psychological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Franki Y.H. Kung

Additional Committee Member 2

Sang Eun Woo

Additional Committee Member 3

Melissa Robertson

Additional Committee Member 4

Annabelle Atkin