What is social essentialism and how does it develop?

Marjorie Rhodes, Kelsey Moty

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Social essentialism consists of the commonly held belief that certain ways of categorizing people (e.g., gender and race) reflect meaningful, fundamental distinctions found in nature—that some kind of category “essence” (e.g., something in their blood or their DNA) explains why groups of people (such as boys and girls) are different from one another. Yet as common as they are, essentialist beliefs can give rise to adverse consequences, including stereotyping and social prejudice. In this chapter, we examine the development of social essentialism. To begin, we briefly address the evidence that these beliefs are the result of developmental processes that unfold beginning in early childhood (and not something innate that children are born with). Then, we consider the nature of those processes; specifically, how basic processes underlying conceptual development give rise to different components of essentialist beliefs. We then address how different essentialist beliefs might be integrated into a coherent essentialist view of a category, and finally into a coherent essentialist view of a domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Child Development and Behavior
EditorsMarjorie Rhodes
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Pages1-30
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print)9780128200865
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameAdvances in Child Development and Behavior
Volume59
ISSN (Print)0065-2407

Keywords

  • Conceptual development
  • Social cognition
  • Social essentialism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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  • Cite this

    Rhodes, M., & Moty, K. (2020). What is social essentialism and how does it develop? In M. Rhodes (Ed.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior (pp. 1-30). (Advances in Child Development and Behavior; Vol. 59). Academic Press Inc.. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.acdb.2020.05.001