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The Effects of Gender Neuroessentialism on Transprejudice: An Experimental Study

Abstract

This experimental study examined the impacts of gender neuroessentialism on stereotyping and prejudice against transgender people. We randomly assigned 132 Chinese, mostly heterosexual college students to read one of three fictitious articles in which the first article explained sex differences in personality and social behavior by neurological factors (biological determinist), a second article questioned this deterministic claim (interactionist), and a third article was unrelated to gender (neutral baseline). The biological determinist condition aimed to foster essentialist beliefs by priming the deterministic ways that the brain relates to personality and behavior, whereas the interactionist condition highlighted the interactive roles of the brain and environments on people’s personality and behavior. We found that participants in the biological determinist condition showed more negative stereotypes and stronger prejudicial attitudes toward transgender people compared with participants in the interactionist condition and those in the control condition. There were no significant differences in transprejudice between the interactionist and control conditions. The present study represents one of the few studies that examined the connection between gender essentialism and transprejudice. The findings suggest that essentialist claims that ground the male/female binary in biology may lead to more transprejudice.

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Correspondence to Boby Ho-Hong Ching.

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All participants of the present study consented to take part on a voluntary basis. After completing all measures, participants were debriefed to check for suspicions about the aims of the study. We used process debriefing (Ross et al. 1975) to discuss the goals and design of the study. Participants were presented with the alternative versions of the text and were encouraged to consider its plausibility. Participants were thanked and dismissed.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Ching, B.HH., Xu, J.T. The Effects of Gender Neuroessentialism on Transprejudice: An Experimental Study. Sex Roles 78, 228–241 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0786-3

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Keywords

  • Transgender
  • Prejudice
  • Gender essentialism
  • Neuroessentialism
  • Biological determinism