Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences - Research Publications

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    Essentialist beliefs about personality and their implications
    Haslam, N ; Bastian, B ; Bissett, M (SAGE PUBLICATIONS INC, 2004-12-01)
    Two studies examine implicit theories about the nature of personality characteristics, asking whether they are understood as underlying essences. Consistent with the hypothesis, essentialist beliefs about personality formed a coherent and replicable set. Personality characteristics differed systematically in the extent to which they were judged to be discrete, biologically based, immutable, informative, consistent across situations, and deeply inherent within the person. In Study 1, the extent to which characteristics were essentialized was positively associated with their perceived desirability, prevalence, and emotionality. In Study 2, essentialized characteristics were judged to be particularly important for defining people's identity, for forming impressions of people, and for communicating about a third person. The findings indicate that people understand some personality attributes in an essentialist fashion, that these attributes are taken to be valued elements of a shared human nature, and that they are particularly central to social identity and judgment.
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    More human than you: Attributing humanness to self and others
    Haslam, N ; Bain, P ; Douge, L ; Lee, M ; Bastian, B (AMER PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOC, 2005-12-01)
    People typically evaluate their in-groups more favorably than out-groups and themselves more favorably than others. Research on infrahumanization also suggests a preferential attribution of the "human essence" to in-groups, independent of in-group favoritism. The authors propose a corresponding phenomenon in interpersonal comparisons: People attribute greater humanness to themselves than to others, independent of self-enhancement. Study 1 and a pilot study demonstrated 2 distinct understandings of humanness--traits representing human nature and those that are uniquely human--and showed that only the former traits are understood as inhering essences. In Study 2, participants rated themselves higher than their peers on human nature traits but not on uniquely human traits, independent of self-enhancement. Study 3 replicated this "self-humanization" effect and indicated that it is partially mediated by attribution of greater depth to self versus others. Study 4 replicated the effect experimentally. Thus, people perceive themselves to be more essentially human than others.
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    Psychological essentialism, implicit theories, and intergroup relations
    Haslam, N ; Bastian, B ; Bain, P ; Kashima, Y (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2006-01-01)
    Research on implicit person theories shows that beliefs about the malleability of human attributes have important implications for social cognition, interpersonal behavior, and intergroup relations. We argue that these implications can be understood within the framework of psychological essentialism, which extends work on implicit theories in promising directions. We review evidence that immutability beliefs covary with a broader set of essentialist beliefs, and that these essentialist beliefs are associated with stereotyping and prejudice. We then present recent studies indicating that associations between implicit person theories and stereotyping may be explained in terms of essentialist beliefs, implying a significant role for these beliefs in the psychology of group perception. Finally, we propose ways in which research and theory on essentialist beliefs might clarify and advance research on implicit person theories.
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    Psychological essentialism and stereotype endorsement
    Bastian, B ; Haslam, N (ACADEMIC PRESS INC ELSEVIER SCIENCE, 2006-03-01)
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    Folk theory of social change
    Kashima, Y ; Bain, P ; Haslam, N ; Peters, K ; Laham, S ; Whelan, J ; Bastian, B ; Loughnan, S ; Kaufmann, L ; FERNANDO, J (Wiley, 2009)
    People have a folk theory of social change (FTSC). A typical Western FTSC stipulates that as a society becomes more industrialized, it undergoes a natural course of social change, in which a communal society marked by communal relationships becomes a qualitatively different, agentic society where market-based exchange relationships prevail. People use this folk theory to predict a society's future and estimate its past, to understand contemporary cross-cultural differences, and to make decisions about social policies. Nonetheless, the FTSC is not particularly consistent with the existing cross-cultural research on industrialization and cultural differences, and needs to be examined carefully.
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