Genetic Essentialism, Neuroessentialism, and Stigma: Commentary on Dar-Nimrod and Heine (2011)
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). "
ABSTRACT: The prominence of neuroscience in the public sphere has escalated in recent years, provoking questions about how the public engages with neuroscientific ideas. Commentaries on neuroscience's role in society often present it as having revolutionary implications, fundamentally overturning established beliefs about personhood. The purpose of this article is to collate and review the extant empirical evidence on the influence of neuroscience on commonsense understandings of personhood. The article evaluates the scope of neuroscience's presence in public consciousness and examines the empirical evidence for three frequently encountered claims about neuroscience's societal influence: that neuroscience fosters a conception of the self that is based in biology, that neuroscience promotes conceptions of individual fate as predetermined, and that neuroscience attenuates the stigma attached to particular social categories. It concludes that many neuroscientific ideas have assimilated in ways that perpetuate rather than challenge existing modes of understanding self, others and society.Public Understanding of Science 04/2013; 22(3):254-68. DOI:10.1177/0963662513476812 · 1.87 Impact Factor
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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). "
ABSTRACT: Recent interest in the role of communication in stigma creation, diffusion, and copying has inspired theorizing. This study presents the first empirical test of one model of stigma communication (Smith, 2007), with a hypothetical infectious disease alert. This study uses an experiment (N=333) to illustrate how changing several words and monitoring four cognitive and affective reactions and a personality trait becomes predictive of almost half (R 2=.49) of the variance in support for intervention policies, including removing and isolating infected persons, forcing treatment, and generating a publicly accessible map of infected persons. Message content and reactions also predicted perceptions of normative stigma beliefs toward infected persons (R 2=.26) and the likelihood of disseminating content of the alert to others (R 2=.15). Results generally support the model of stigma communication and indicate places for refinement.Communication Monographs 09/2012; DOI:10.1080/03637751.2012.723811 · 2.54 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: In this article I flesh out support for observations that scientific accounts of social groups can influence the very groups and mental phenomena under investigation. The controversial hypothesis that there are hardwired differences between the brains of males and females that contribute to sex differences in gender-typed behaviour is common in both the scientific and popular media. Here I present evidence that such claims, quite independently of their scientific validity, have scope to sustain the very sex differences they seek to explain. I argue that, while further research is required, such claims can have self-fulfilling effects via their influence on social perception, behaviour and attitudes. The real effects of the products of scientists’ research on our minds and society, together with the fact that all scientific hypotheses are subject to dispute and disconfirmation, point to a need for scientists to consider the ethical implications of their work.Neuroethics 12/2011; 5(3). DOI:10.1007/s12152-011-9118-4 · 1.04 Impact Factor