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Communication and Essentialism: Grounding the Shared Reality of a Social Category
Social Cognition
  • Yoshihisa Kashima, The University of Melbourne
  • Emiko S. Kashima, La Trobe University
  • Paul Bain, Murdoch University
  • Anthony Lyons, The University of Melbourne
  • R Scott Tindale, Loyola University Chicago
  • Gary Robins, The University of Melbourne
  • Cedric Vears, The University of Melbourne
  • Jennifer Whelan, The University of Melbourne
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Essentialism is an ontological belief that there exists an underlying essence to a category. This article advances and tests in three studies the hypothesis that communication about a social category, and expected or actual mutual validation, promotes essentialism about a social category. In Study 1, people who wrote communications about a social category to their ingroup audiences essentialized it more strongly than those who simply memorized about it. In Study 2, communicators whose messages about a novel social category were more elaborately discussed with a confederate showed a stronger tendency to essentialize it. In Study 3, communicators who elaborately talked about a social category with a naive conversant also essentialized the social category. A meta-analysis of the results supported the hypothesis that communication promotes essentialism. Although essentialism has been discussed primarily in perceptual and cognitive domains, the role of social processes as its antecedent deserves greater attention.


Author Posting. © Guilford Press, 2010. This article is posted here by permission of Guilford Press for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in Social Cognition, Volume 28, Issue 3, 2010,

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Citation Information
Yoshihisa Kashima, Emiko S. Kashima, Paul Bain, Anthony Lyons, R. Scott Tindale, Garry Robins, Cedric Vears, and Jennifer Whelan (2010). Communication and Essentialism: Grounding the Shared Reality of a Social Category. Social Cognition: Vol. 28, Special Issue: Shared Reality, pp. 306-328.