Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Essentialism is insidious - but it can also be helpful

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

This is a good discussion of the concept of 'essentialism' and how it can influence a person's opinion about others or themselves. As the authors write, 'Essentialism refers to the perception that members of the same category share an innate, unchangeable essence." Sometimes this can result in inappropriate negative stereotypes. "For example, discrete racial categories, which are socially constructed, are often falsely understood to have a biological basis." So some people incorrectly think that certain characteristics are 'natural' for some races, which can allow them to rationalize some sort of racism. But, the authors argue, the concept of essentialism, when used by the members of a marginalized group to describe themselves, can be empowering. The study reported here suggests "those who embraced essentialist beliefs about neurodivergent people also reported higher levels of self-efficacy." For myself, I reject most forms of essentialism. Classification is something humans do as a cognitive shortcut; nature is infinitely more varied and variable.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: May 22, 2024 4:18 p.m.

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