Essentializing ethnicity: Identification constraint reduces diversity interest

Tiane L. Lee, Leigh S. Wilton, Sau Kwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The present research investigates the effects of a subtle essentialist cue: restricting individuals to identify with only one ethnicity. Although this constraint is mundane and commonly used in everyday life, it sends a message of essentialized group differences. Three studies illustrate the harmful impact of this essentialist cue on diversity. Studies 1a and 1b show that it decreases Asian-Americans' desire to participate in ethnicity-related activities. Study 2 reveals that it reduces essentialist European-Americans' desire for friendship with a minority target. Study 3 illustrates the mechanism through which an essentialist cue reduces intergroup contact, with perceivers' chronic beliefs moderating this effect. Together, these findings demonstrate the powerful impact of the seemingly small act of how we ask people to identify with an ethnic group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-200
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Nov 2014


  • Asian-American
  • Diversity
  • Essentialism
  • Ethnicity
  • European-American
  • Multiculturalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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