Over spring break, some CORE Lab representatives attended ICPS, the International Convention of Psychological Sciences, in Paris! Dr. Coley, Nicole Betz, and Jessica Leffers organized a symposium called “Questioning Assumptions of Social Essentialism” in which they presented two ongoing projects in the lab. I interviewed Nicole to hear a little bit more about the conference and their time in Paris!

Kelly: What projects did the CORE lab, specifically, bring to ICPS?

Nicole: John, Jess, and I organized a symposium on social essentialism. The goal of our symposium was to present findings that questioned fundamental assumptions about essentialism in the field of psychology. We each talked at the symposium and presented posters on the second day of the conference. At the symposium, I presented research on how cultural influence can shape the manipulations and consequences of essentialism among in and out groups. We found that members of collectivist cultures were more likely to view in group members as more natural and cohesive, essentializing them. However, members of individualist cultures essentialized the outgroup more. This essentializing proved to be positive among collectivist cultures but negative among individualist cultures.

K: What posters did you present?

N: Jess, John and I also presented a poster on the link between essentialism and dehumanization, looking at participants from India. We found that in India, the more a person essentialized, the less they dehumanized. This was contradictory to what we expected but it fits in really well with my findings in my project on essentialism in collectivist vs individualist cultures. John also presented a poster on essentialism in the US and Northern Ireland where he replicated the Haslam 2 factor structure, an accepted measure of essentialism, in both populations.

K: Did the CORE Lab collaborate with anybody while in Paris?

N: Aidan Feeney from Queen’s University in Belfast presented at our symposium and was also on the Northern Ireland project with John. We have collaborated with Queen’s University on a couple projects now. Tara Mandalaywala from the University of Massachusetts Amherst also presented at the symposium. Although we’re not currently in collaboration, she does some really interesting work in how children understand race, similar to work we have done in our lab.

K: What were the responses of audience members who attended your symposium?

N: People were really interested in the topics and seemed to enjoy the session. We got a lot of questions about essentialism in general, because it can be a difficult topic for people to grasp if you don’t have the background knowledge on it. One researcher, a man named Immo Fristche with the University of Leipzig was really interested in the potential positive outcomes of essentialism. He was interested in using essentialism as a method to increase collective action, specifically in combating climate change, which is what his research focuses on.

K: What was your favorite poster you saw?

N: I really liked Immo Fristche’s poster on collectivist action surrounding climate change. I also heard a talk from an NYU researcher, Eric Knowles, that was really interesting. He talked about perceptions surrounding a statistic that in 2042, whites will be in the minority in the US, and current minority groups combined will become the majority. He studies how feelings about this idea changed throughout Trump’s political campaign and presidency and whether white US citizens believe in this idea of “minority collusion”- the idea that “non-whites” will take control of the US if they become the majority. His research showed that in 2015, before Trump’s campaign, Republicans did not believe that minority collusion would be an issue, but as time passed, they began to endorse this idea. Belief in minority collusion predicted more support for the alt-right movement and less support for the black lives matter campaign. Knowles’ study could have some very important repercussions considering the current political climate and with the upcoming elections.

K: Did you guys get some time to explore Paris or travel at all?

N: We didn’t have much time during the conference itself, but I stayed a day and a half after the conference and got some time to see Paris. Some of my friends from the conference and I took a whirlwind tour of Paris- we walked around and saw The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre, and also ate plenty of crepes! We also went to the Musée de l’Orangerie and saw Monet’s Water Lilies. It was incredible!

N: Before the conference, we had some time to travel. I went to Annecy, which is basically the Venice of France and biked around the Annecy lake. The view was beautiful because the town is at the northernmost point of the french alps. After Annecy,  I met Jess in Grenoble and we saw the Bastille. It was my first time in France, and a really amazing trip!

Here are some pictures from this great trip!