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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