'More than skin-deep': biological essentialism in response to a distinctiveness threat in a stigmatized fan community

Br J Soc Psychol. 2015 Jun;54(2):359-70. doi: 10.1111/bjso.12079. Epub 2014 Aug 12.


We investigated how group distinctiveness threats affect essentialist beliefs about group membership in a stigmatized fan community. An experiment conducted on 817 members of the fan community revealed that highly identified fans who perceived significant stigmatization were the most likely to endorse essentialist beliefs about group membership when exposed to a distinctiveness threat via comparison to a highly similar (vs. dissimilar) outgroup. These results bridge essentialism research and research on distinctiveness threat by demonstrating the mutability of group essentialism beliefs as a defensive response to distinctiveness threats. Implications for future research are discussed.

Keywords: distinctiveness; essentialism; fandom; furry; marginalization; social identity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Stigma*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Young Adult