Psychological essentialism is a set of lay beliefs about categories, according to which certain categories are seen as natural and arising from an inborn, causal force or “essence.” Social categories, including gender, are often essentialized by both adults and children. The current study examines how gender essentialism relates to other gender-relevant beliefs and preferences, in both a child sample (5- to 7-year-olds) and an adult sample (the children’s parents). Children’s and parents’ essentialism predicted children’s gender-typed preferences, but not children’s prescriptive stereotyping. In contrast, parents’ essentialism predicted their own prescriptive stereotyping, but not their gender-typed preferences. Implications of these findings are discussed in the contexts of (a) past findings linking essentialism with stereotyping and (b) the practical implications of developmental shifts in the correlates of essentialism, including ways in which stereotyping and rigid beliefs about gender may be reduced.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 27, 2016
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