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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013 Aug;105(2):247-61. doi: 10.1037/a0032895. Epub 2013 May 27.

Social class rank, essentialism, and punitive judgment.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820, USA. mwkraus@illinois.edu

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that perceptions of social class rank influence a variety of social cognitive tendencies, from patterns of causal attribution to moral judgment. In the present studies we tested the hypotheses that upper-class rank individuals would be more likely to endorse essentialist lay theories of social class categories (i.e., that social class is founded in genetically based, biological differences) than would lower-class rank individuals and that these beliefs would decrease support for restorative justice--which seeks to rehabilitate offenders, rather than punish unlawful action. Across studies, higher social class rank was associated with increased essentialism of social class categories (Studies 1, 2, and 4) and decreased support for restorative justice (Study 4). Moreover, manipulated essentialist beliefs decreased preferences for restorative justice (Study 3), and the association between social class rank and class-based essentialist theories was explained by the tendency to endorse beliefs in a just world (Study 2). Implications for how class-based essentialist beliefs potentially constrain social opportunity and mobility are discussed.

PMID:
23713698
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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