Wealth Essentialism in Adults and Children

Zaina Khoury

BS ’19

Psychological essentialism is the idea that certain categories, such as “male” or “wealthy,” are defined by underlying, innate, and non-obvious features. In other words, essentialist reasoning posits that someone is born with a particular quality, that they will always possess the quality, and that it may be used to categorize the individual. Our study will focus on wealth, specifically the qualities of richness and poorness, and assess the degree to which adults and children alike think about these characteristics. Being able to reliably essentialize certain qualities may be helpful in constructing categories and predicting characteristics of novel concepts or objects. That said, essentialist reasoning about people may be conducive to harmful stereotypes and premature judgments. Understanding how we categorize others could one day reduce the harm inflicted by negative stereotypes and encourage a more inclusive society. The adult portion of the present study is unique in that we will be testing for possible relationships between essentialism scores, socioeconomic status, and political affiliation. This is a multidisciplinary project which incorporates concepts from a variety of fields.

Library Mentor: Hailey Mooney