The present research examines whether identity essentialism, an important component of psychological essentialism, is a fundamental feature of human cognition. Across three studies (Ntotal = 1723), we report evidence that essentialist intuitions about the identity of kinds are culturally dependent, demographically variable, and easily malleable. The first study considered essentialist intuitions in 10 different countries spread across four continents. Participants were presented with two scenarios meant to elicit essentialist intuitions. Their answers suggest that essentialist intuitions vary dramatically across cultures. Furthermore, (...) these intuitions were found to vary with gender, education, and across eliciting stimuli. The second study further examined whether essentialist intuitions are stable across different kinds of eliciting stimuli. Participants were presented with two different scenarios meant to elicit essentialist intuitions—the “discovery” and “transformation” scenarios. Their answers suggest that the nature of the eliciting stimuli influences whether or not people report essentialist intuitions. Finally, the third study demonstrates that essentialist intuitions are susceptible to framing effects. Keeping the eliciting stimulus (i.e., the scenario) constant, we show that the formulation of the question eliciting a judgment influences whether or not people have essentialist intuitions. Implications of these findings for identity essentialism and psychological essentialism, in general, are discussed. (shrink)
Does the Ship of Theseus present a genuine puzzle about persistence due to conflicting intuitions based on “continuity of form” and “continuity of matter” pulling in opposite directions? Philosophers are divided. Some claim that it presents a genuine puzzle but disagree over whether there is a solution. Others claim that there is no puzzle at all since the case has an obvious solution. To assess these proposals, we conducted a cross-cultural study involving nearly 3,000 people across twenty-two countries, speaking eighteen (...) different languages. Our results speak against the proposal that there is no puzzle at all and against the proposal that there is a puzzle but one that has no solution. Our results suggest that there are two criteria—“continuity of form” and “continuity of matter”— that constitute our concept of persistence and these two criteria receive different weightings in settling matters concerning persistence. (shrink)
Some aspects of moral disciplining theory (MDT) – the association between cooperation and self-control; the notion that people and societies value sacrifice and costly prosocial behaviors – are well supported. However, other aspects of MDT – the association between religion/religiosity and cooperation; the notion that sacrifice and costly prosocial behaviors are no longer valued in “western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic” (WEIRD) societies – are inconsistent with existing evidence.