A Motivational Perspective on the Development of Social Essentialism

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The tendency to view groups as constituting essentially different categories emerges early in development. To date, most attempts at understanding the origins of this tendency have focused on cognitive processes. Drawing from social-psychological and evolutionary theory, I propose that motivations—in particular, a need to belong—may be foundational for the development of social essentialism. I review evidence indicating that this perspective not only is developmentally plausible but also may explain children’s tendency to consider intentional behaviors performed by in-group members as normative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-81
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

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  • development
  • essentialism
  • motivations
  • social groups


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