Cultural transmission of social essentialism

Marjorie Rhodes
Social essentialism entails the belief that certain social categories (e.g., gender, race) mark fundamentally distinct kinds of people. Essentialist beliefs have pernicious consequences, supporting social stereotyping and contributing to prejudice. How does social essentialism develop? In the studies reported here, we tested the hypothesis that generic language facilitates the cultural transmission of social essentialism. Two studies found that hearing generic language about a novel social category diverse for race, ethnicity, age, and sex led 4-y-olds...
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