Article | Psychological Science | January 2013

Not Just for Stereotyping Anymore: Racial Essentialism Reduces Domain-General Creativity

by Carmit Tadmor, Melody Chao, Ying-yi Hong and Jeff Polzer


Individuals who believe that racial groups have fixed underlying essences use stereotypes more than do individuals who believe that racial categories are arbitrary and malleable social-political constructions. Would this essentialist mind-set also lead to less creativity? We suggest that the functional utility derived from essentialism induces a habitual closed-mindedness that transcends the social domain and hampers creativity. Across studies, using both individual difference measures (in a pilot test) and experimental manipulations (Experiments 1, 2a, and 2b), we found that an essentialist mind-set is indeed hazardous for creativity, with the relationship mediated by motivated closed-mindedness (Experiments 2a and 2b). These results held across samples of majority cultural-group members (Caucasian Americans, Israelis) and minority-group members (Asian Americans), as well as across different measures of creativity (flexibility, association, insight). Our findings have important implications for understanding the connection between racial intolerance and creativity.

Keywords: Prejudice and Bias; Creativity; Race Characteristics;


Tadmor, Carmit, Melody Chao, Ying-yi Hong, and Jeff Polzer. "Not Just for Stereotyping Anymore: Racial Essentialism Reduces Domain-General Creativity." Psychological Science 24, no. 1 (January 2013).