The Inherence Heuristic as a Source of Essentialist Thought

Erika Salomon, Andrei Cimpian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Humans are essentialists: They believe hidden “essences” underlie membership in natural and social kinds. Although essentialism has well-established implications for important societal issues (e.g., discrimination), little is known about its origins. According to a recent proposal, essentialism emerges from a broader inherence heuristic—an intuitive tendency to explain patterns in terms of the inherent properties of their constituents (e.g., we have orange juice for breakfast [pattern] because citrus aromas [inherent feature] wake us up). We tested two predictions of this proposal—that reliance on the inherence heuristic predicts endorsement of essentialist beliefs, even when adjusting for potentially confounding variables (Studies 1 and 2), and that reducing reliance on the inherence heuristic produces a downstream reduction in essentialist thought (Studies 3 and 4). The results were consistent with these predictions and thus provided evidence for a new theoretical perspective on the cognitive underpinnings of psychological essentialism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1297-1315
Number of pages19
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Volume40
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 8 2014

Fingerprint

Confounding Factors (Epidemiology)
Breakfast
Citrus
Psychology
Heuristics
Discrimination (Psychology)

Keywords

  • heuristics and biases
  • inherence heuristic
  • prejudice
  • psychological essentialism
  • stereotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

Cite this

The Inherence Heuristic as a Source of Essentialist Thought. / Salomon, Erika; Cimpian, Andrei.

In: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 40, No. 10, 08.10.2014, p. 1297-1315.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{7244b38d4a694b14b3dfbfb7a10e2807,
title = "The Inherence Heuristic as a Source of Essentialist Thought",
abstract = "Humans are essentialists: They believe hidden “essences” underlie membership in natural and social kinds. Although essentialism has well-established implications for important societal issues (e.g., discrimination), little is known about its origins. According to a recent proposal, essentialism emerges from a broader inherence heuristic—an intuitive tendency to explain patterns in terms of the inherent properties of their constituents (e.g., we have orange juice for breakfast [pattern] because citrus aromas [inherent feature] wake us up). We tested two predictions of this proposal—that reliance on the inherence heuristic predicts endorsement of essentialist beliefs, even when adjusting for potentially confounding variables (Studies 1 and 2), and that reducing reliance on the inherence heuristic produces a downstream reduction in essentialist thought (Studies 3 and 4). The results were consistent with these predictions and thus provided evidence for a new theoretical perspective on the cognitive underpinnings of psychological essentialism.",
keywords = "heuristics and biases, inherence heuristic, prejudice, psychological essentialism, stereotyping",
author = "Erika Salomon and Andrei Cimpian",
year = "2014",
month = "10",
day = "8",
doi = "10.1177/0146167214541659",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "40",
pages = "1297--1315",
journal = "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin",
issn = "0146-1672",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Inc.",
number = "10",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The Inherence Heuristic as a Source of Essentialist Thought

AU - Salomon, Erika

AU - Cimpian, Andrei

PY - 2014/10/8

Y1 - 2014/10/8

N2 - Humans are essentialists: They believe hidden “essences” underlie membership in natural and social kinds. Although essentialism has well-established implications for important societal issues (e.g., discrimination), little is known about its origins. According to a recent proposal, essentialism emerges from a broader inherence heuristic—an intuitive tendency to explain patterns in terms of the inherent properties of their constituents (e.g., we have orange juice for breakfast [pattern] because citrus aromas [inherent feature] wake us up). We tested two predictions of this proposal—that reliance on the inherence heuristic predicts endorsement of essentialist beliefs, even when adjusting for potentially confounding variables (Studies 1 and 2), and that reducing reliance on the inherence heuristic produces a downstream reduction in essentialist thought (Studies 3 and 4). The results were consistent with these predictions and thus provided evidence for a new theoretical perspective on the cognitive underpinnings of psychological essentialism.

AB - Humans are essentialists: They believe hidden “essences” underlie membership in natural and social kinds. Although essentialism has well-established implications for important societal issues (e.g., discrimination), little is known about its origins. According to a recent proposal, essentialism emerges from a broader inherence heuristic—an intuitive tendency to explain patterns in terms of the inherent properties of their constituents (e.g., we have orange juice for breakfast [pattern] because citrus aromas [inherent feature] wake us up). We tested two predictions of this proposal—that reliance on the inherence heuristic predicts endorsement of essentialist beliefs, even when adjusting for potentially confounding variables (Studies 1 and 2), and that reducing reliance on the inherence heuristic produces a downstream reduction in essentialist thought (Studies 3 and 4). The results were consistent with these predictions and thus provided evidence for a new theoretical perspective on the cognitive underpinnings of psychological essentialism.

KW - heuristics and biases

KW - inherence heuristic

KW - prejudice

KW - psychological essentialism

KW - stereotyping

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84908503102&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84908503102&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1177/0146167214541659

DO - 10.1177/0146167214541659

M3 - Article

C2 - 25037751

AN - SCOPUS:84908503102

VL - 40

SP - 1297

EP - 1315

JO - Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

JF - Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

SN - 0146-1672

IS - 10

ER -