People represent many social categories, including gender categories, in essentialist terms: They see category members as sharing deep, nonobvious properties that make them the kinds of things they are. The present research explored the consequences of this mode of representation for social inferences. In two sets of studies, participants learned (a) that they were similar to a member of the other gender on a novel attribute, (b) that they were different from a member of the other gender on a novel attribute, or (c) just their own standing on a novel attribute. Results showed that participants made stronger inductive inferences about the attribute in question when they learned that it distinguished them from a member of the other gender than in the other conditions. We consider the implications of these results for the representation of social categories and for everyday social inference processes.
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