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Monica Calderon (SURF SSHA)

The Impact of Essentialist Beliefs on Individuals’ Reactions to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Monica Calderon, Tonghui (Kailee) Zhu, Rose M. Scott, PhD

Essentialism is the notion that members of certain groups are inherently similar in terms of behavior and appearance. These beliefs often cause prejudice in regard to social groups, such as race or gender. This study analyses whether essentialist beliefs are related to outgroup bias or stigma during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We predicted that people who used more essentialized language were more likely to endorse the use of the term “Chinese virus”. To test this, 343 social media posts from Twitter were coded for essentialist language or outgroup bias. We performed a content analysis of the tweets, counting the use of certain words or phrases. For example, we coded for mentions of China, character attributions, emotion words, and endorsement of the term “Chinse virus.” The results attained in this study can help us understand how essentialist beliefs can lead to outgroup bias or stigma, and how that can affect social groups.


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