Symposium S-H09: Understanding the Dynamics of Beliefs in Genetic and Racial Essences

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, United States on 2015-02-26 20:34Z by Steven

Symposium S-H09: Understanding the Dynamics of Beliefs in Genetic and Racial Essences

The Society for Personality and Social Psychology
16th Annual Convention
Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center
Long Beach, California
2015-02-26 through 2015-02-28

Saturday, 2015-02-28, 15:30-16:45 PST (Local Time)
Room 202ABC

Franki Kung
University of Waterloo


Melody Chao
Hong Kong University of Science & Technology

The symposium presents research that transcends the static, and often negative, conceptualization of essentialism. Four papers present a dynamic view of essentialist beliefs and show that beliefs in genetic or racial essences could lead to both positive and negative social psychological outcomes in interpersonal, intergroup and clinical contexts.

The Implications of Cultural Essentialism on Interpersonal Conflicts in Inter- vs. Intracultural Contexts

Franki Yk Hei Kung
University of Waterloo

Melody M. Chao
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Donna Yao
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Ho-ying Fu
City University of Hong Kong

Although psychological essentialism has been shown to influence a wide range of psychological processes in intergroup contexts, little is known about its impact on managing interpersonal conflicts in intracultural and intercultural settings. The current research aims to address this question. Findings across three studies (N=387) revealed that individuals who endorse essentialist beliefs less were more likely to trust their interaction partner in intercultural than intracultural conflict situations. This increased trusting relationship, in turn, could lead to more integration of ideas and both better individual and joint outcomes in face-to-face dyadic intercultural negotiations. The current study unveils when and how essentialist beliefs influence individuals’ ability to function effectively in intercultural and intercultural contexts. Implications of the findings in advancing our understanding of intercultural competence will be discussed.

To be Essentialist or Not: The Positive and Negative Ramifications of Race Essentialism for Multiracial Individuals

Kristin Pauker
University of Hawaii

Chanel Meyers
University of Hawaii

Jon Freeman
New York University

Research documents the many negative implications of race essentialism for intergroup relations, ranging from increased stereotyping to less motivation to cross racial boundaries. This research has primarily examined such negative implications from the perspective of White perceivers. Two studies (N=138) explored positive and negative ramifications of adopting essentialist beliefs about race for racial minorities, specifically multiracial individuals. We hypothesized that adopting less essentialist beliefs may aid multiracial individuals in flexibly adopting the framework of multiple identities with positive consequences for their face memory, but may result in negative consequences for their racial identity. Results indicated that multiracial individuals with less essentialist views could readily adopt the lens of primed monoracial identities and exhibited preferential memory for identity-prime relevant faces. However, when it came to their own racial identification, more essentialist views appeared to be beneficial—as it was associated with higher identity integration and greater pride in a multiracial identity.

Folk Beliefs about Genetic Variation Predict Avoidance of Biracial Individuals

Jason E. Plaks
University of Toronto

Sonia K. Kang
University of Toronto

Alison L. Chasteen
University of Toronto

Jessica D. Remedios
Tufts University

Laypeople’s estimates of the amount of genetic overlap between vs. within racial groups vary widely. While some believe that different races are genetically similar, others believe that different races share little genetic material. These studies examine how beliefs about genetic overlap affect neural and behavioral reactions to racially-ambiguous and biracial targets. In Study 1, we found that the low overlap perspective predicts a stronger neural avoidance response to biracial compared to Black or White targets. In Study 2, we manipulated genetic overlap beliefs and found that participants in the low overlap condition explicitly rated biracial targets more negatively than Black targets. In Study 3, this difference extended to distancing behavior: Low overlap perceivers sat further away when expecting to meet a biracial person than when expecting to meet a Black person. These data suggest that a priori assumptions about human genetic variation guide perceivers’ reactions to racially-ambiguous individuals.

Genetic Attributions Underlie People’s Attitudes Towards Criminal Responsibility and Eugenics

Steven J. Heine
Department of Psychology
University of British Columbia

Benjamin Y. Cheung
Department of Psychology
University of British Columbia

People are essentialist thinkers – they are attracted to the idea that hidden essences make things as they are. When most people encounter genetic concepts they think of these as essences, and they then think about related phenomena as immutable, determined, homogenous and discrete, and natural. I will discuss experimental research that demonstrates how encounters with information about genetic causes leads people to view two highly politicized topics in quite different terms. Specifically, in contrast to those who were exposed to arguments about experiential causes, people who encountered genetic attributions of violent behavior were more open to defenses appealing to mitigated criminal responsibility, and genetic attributions of intelligence lead people to be more supportive of eugenic policies.

For more information click here and go to page 125.

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