Prejudice against social groups is a universal societal problem. This research investigated the role of psychological essentialist beliefs in predicting individual variation in prejudice levels in two large national samples. Study 1 (N = 583) showed that people with stronger essentialist beliefs had higher levels of implicit and explicit prejudice against African Americans. Study 2 (N = 3110) examined a mechanism by which people higher in essentialism form stronger intergroup attitudes using an experimental attitude induction. We demonstrated that essentialism facilitates explicit and, to some extent, implicit prejudice formation toward a novel group after brief exposure to positively or negatively valenced information about individuals belonging to that group. Our findings illustrate the importance of integrating individual difference and social cognitive approaches to understanding prejudice formation and maintenance.
Social Cognition – Guilford Press
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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