When Generic Language does not Promote Psychological Essentialism

Nadya Vasilyeva, Alison Gopnik, Tania Lombrozo

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Generic language (e.g., “Women are nurturing”; “Women do not like math”) is prominent in child-directed speech, and has been shown to promote essentialist beliefs about the relevant kind, supporting stereotyping and prejudice. Here we investigate a theoretically-motivated intervention to break the link between generics and essentialist assumptions. In a study with 223 3-8-year-old children who learned about novel social groups from generic language, we demonstrate that a structural construal of generics (attributing the category-property association to stable external constraints) mitigates essentialist assumptions about social categories. We discuss practical applications for reducing stereotype endorsement, and theoretical implications regarding the meaning of generic language and the development of social kind representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages688-694
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 2020
Event42nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Developing a Mind: Learning in Humans, Animals, and Machines, CogSci 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 29 2020Aug 1 2020

Conference

Conference42nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Developing a Mind: Learning in Humans, Animals, and Machines, CogSci 2020
CityVirtual, Online
Period7/29/208/1/20

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Keywords

  • generic language
  • psychological essentialism
  • social categories
  • structural explanation

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