Communication and Essentialism: Grounding the Shared Reality of a Social Category
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 mu- tual 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 elabo- rately talked about a social category with a naive conversant also essential- ized the social category. A meta-analysis of the results supported the hy- pothesis 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.