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Oxford Studies in Experimental PhilosophyVolume 1$
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Joshua Knobe, Tania Lombrozo, and Shaun Nichols

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198718765

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718765.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 June 2021

Carving Up the Social World with Generics*

Carving Up the Social World with Generics*

(p.208) 8 Carving Up the Social World with Generics*
Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy

Sarah-Jane Leslie

Oxford University Press

How is our perception of the social world shaped by hearing generic generalizations? This chapter reviews evidence from experimental psychology that suggests that generic language leads both preschoolers and adults to view both social groups and abilities in essentialist terms—that is, to think of social categories as reflecting deep, inherent differences between people, and to think of abilities as innate, immutable and unresponsive to hard work and practice. The tendency to view social categories in essentialist terms has been linked to stereotyping and prejudice, and so it is important to understand the cues that lead children to conceive of a given social category in this way. Similarly, thinking of abilities as inherent and unchangeable has been shown to lead to impaired performance, and to increase vulnerability to stereotype threat. Recent findings suggest that hearing generic language may play an important role in the development of both sets of beliefs.

Keywords:   generics, psychological essentialism, stereotyping, prejudice, mindset, ability beliefs, stereotype threat

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