How does social essentialism affect the development of inter-group relations?

Marjorie Rhodes, Sarah Jane Leslie, Katya Saunders, Yarrow Dunham, Andrei Cimpian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psychological essentialism is a pervasive conceptual bias to view categories as reflecting something deep, stable, and informative about their members. Scholars from diverse disciplines have long theorized that psychological essentialism has negative ramifications for inter-group relations, yet little previous empirical work has experimentally tested the social implications of essentialist beliefs. Three studies (N = 127, ages 4.5–6) found that experimentally inducing essentialist beliefs about a novel social category led children to share fewer resources with category members, but did not lead to the out-group dislike that defines social prejudice. These findings indicate that essentialism negatively influences some key components of inter-group relations, but does not lead directly to the development of prejudice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12509
JournalDevelopmental science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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