University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) > Shifting ground: The variable use of essentialism in contexts of inclusion and exclusion

Shifting ground: The variable use of essentialism in contexts of inclusion and exclusion

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Julain Oldmeadow.

Past research has demonstrated a broad association between prejudice and essentialism. However, research has also shown that essentialism and prejudice are not always linked in the same way – sometimes essentialist thinking is associated with prejudice, but sometimes it is not. The aim of the present research was to explore experimentally how prejudice might relate to essentialist beliefs about race differently depending on how race is being used (inclusively or exclusively) and who is the implied target of such treatment (ethnic minorities or the white majority). Study 1 (N=178) demonstrated that, although prejudice among white Australians is typically related to essentialist beliefs about Aboriginal identity, this relationship disappeared when racial criteria were used to exclude someone for ‘being white’. Under these conditions, prejudiced participants expressed opposition to such treatment and de-essentialized race. Study 2 (N=198) broadly replicated this pattern in a British context and indicated that prejudiced participants’ de-essentialism of race was due to a stronger emphasis on values of equality under the same conditions. These results demonstrate that prejudiced people endorse essentialism when it can be used to exclude others (who they want to exclude), but reject essentialism when it is used to exclude them.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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