Genetic Essentialism, Neuroessentialism, and Stigma: Commentary on Dar-Nimrod and Heine (2011)

Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.
Psychological Bulletin (Impact Factor: 14.76). 09/2011; 137(5):819-24. DOI: 10.1037/a0022386
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Dar-Nimrod and Heine (2011) presented a masterfully broad review of the implications of genetic essentialism for understandings of human diversity. This commentary clarifies the reasons that essentialist thinking has problematic social consequences and links genetic forms of essentialism to those invoking neural essences. The mounting evidence that these forms of essentialist thinking contribute to the stigma of mental disorder is reviewed. Genetic and neuroessentialisms influence media portrayals of scientific research and distort how they are interpreted by laypeople. The common thread of these essentialisms is their tendency to deepen social divisions and promote forms of social segregation.

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    • "These four issues set the structure for the present article. 2. Though Dar-Nimrod and Heine's (2011) review centres on the effects of genetic explanations, many of its conclusions can be generalized to neurobiological explanations (Haslam, 2011). "
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    • "As people accepted a biological explanation for mental illness and substance-abuse, their desire for social distance from the mentally ill and addicted increased. Biological explanations also appear to foster pessimism about the likelihood of recovery and the effectiveness of treatment (113–121). This finding may seem counterintuitive. "
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    • "These findings suggest that content may imply responsibility differently from the other mechanisms, and these other mechanisms may be more critical for stigma-related communication processes. These findings resonate with research that has attempted to reduce stigmas via changing responsibility and has failed (see Haslam, 2011). "
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