Not Just for Stereotyping Anymore: Racial Essentialism Reduces Domain-General Creativity

Carmit T. Tadmor, Melody M. Chao, Ying yi Hong, Jeffrey T. Polzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals who believe that racial groups have fixed underlying essences use stereotypes more than do individuals who believe that racial categories are arbitrary and malleable social-political constructions. Would this essentialist mind-set also lead to less creativity? We suggest that the functional utility derived from essentialism induces a habitual closed-mindedness that transcends the social domain and hampers creativity. Across studies, using both individual difference measures (in a pilot test) and experimental manipulations (Experiments 1, 2a, and 2b), we found that an essentialist mind-set is indeed hazardous for creativity, with the relationship mediated by motivated closed-mindedness (Experiments 2a and 2b). These results held across samples of majority cultural-group members (Caucasian Americans, Israelis) and minority-group members (Asian Americans), as well as across different measures of creativity (flexibility, association, insight). Our findings have important implications for understanding the connection between racial intolerance and creativity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • categorical thinking
  • closed-mindedness
  • cognitive style
  • creativity
  • essentialism
  • lay theories of race
  • motivated cognition
  • racial and ethnic attitudes and relations
  • social cognition
  • social construction
  • stereotyping


Dive into the research topics of 'Not Just for Stereotyping Anymore: Racial Essentialism Reduces Domain-General Creativity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this