Social essentialism in the United States and China: How social and cognitive factors predict within- and cross-cultural variation in essentialist thinking

Yian Xu, Fangfang Wen, Bin Zuo, Marjorie Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

People intuitively view some social groups (such as Black people, Muslims, and women) as having biological underpinnings and discrete boundaries. Essentialist beliefs about social groups shape how people view themselves and others, leading to a number of negative social consequences. Whereas previous research has demonstrated variations in social essentialism within some Western societies, less is known about how social essentialism manifests in East Asian cultures that have well-documented differences in social values and cognitive styles from Western cultures. The current research investigated cultural variations in social essentialist thinking in the United States and China to reveal how cultural ideologies and social belief systems shape people’s basic representations of the social world. Analyses revealed several cultural and social correlates of social essentialism both between and within the cultures and demonstrated the mediating role of collectivistic values in predicting cultural differences in essentialist beliefs about group coherence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMemory and Cognition
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Collectivism
  • Culture
  • Social essentialism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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