Positive Essentialization Reduces Prejudice: Reminding Participants of a Positive Human Nature Alleviates the Stigma of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) Descent


  • Idhamsyah Eka Putra
  • Peter Holtz
  • Ardiningtiyas Pitaloka
  • Nicole Kronberger
  • Nurul Arbiyah


This study aims to demonstrate and change negative perceptions of descendants of members of the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia/PKI), a stigmatized social group in Indonesia. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were given positive descriptions of an adult (Study 1) and a child (Study 2), and were asked to evaluate them twice, before and after reading information about the target’s family background. In Study 1, targets were described either as descendants of PKI members, members of another Indonesian party or criminals. In Study 2, the target was presented as a descendant of PKI members, of members of another Indonesian party or without information on family background (control condition). The studies showed that whenever people were ‘revealed’ to be descendants of PKI members, the respondents’ judgments became more negative, and their assumptions about commonly shared views of these people became more negative as well. In Studies 3 and 4, participants were again given descriptions of an adult (Study 3) and a child (Study 4), which were both described as descendants of PKI members. Half of the participants were reminded afterwards with a written statement that every human is by nature good and unique (the experimental condition), while the other half did not get any additional information (control group). By making salient a shared and positively valued human ‘essence’, it was possible to alleviate the stigma that still is attached to PKI-affiliations in Indonesian society. We end the study with a discussion of our findings’ political and societal implications.