If Your Group Is (not) Great: Positive vs. Negative Trait Priming Motivates Majorities and Minorities to Adapt Essentialist Attributions


  • Ruta Zeromskyte
  • Wolfgang Wagner


In the present study we investigate the mutability of essentialist ingroup and outgroup attributions in relation to positive and negative ingroup trait priming for ethnic minority and majority members in two countries (Study 1 in Austria: with Austrians and Austrian Turks; Study 2 in Lithuania: with Lithuanians and Lithuanian Poles). Both studies demonstrate that essentialist ingroup-attributions were lower when both minority and majority members were encountering negative (as compared to neutral/positive) ingroup traits. Only minority members raised the level of essentialist ingroup-attributions with positive ingroup trait priming. Additionally, Study 2 compared essentialist attributions in two regions (typical and numerically reversed minority-majority groups). The typical majority Lithuanians and “reversed” Poles attributed a lower level of ingroup-essence than the typical minority Poles and “reversed” Lithuanians. With ingroup trait priming, the “reversed” groups showed the same pattern, changing the levels of self-attributed essence like the ethnic Lithuanians/Poles in typical regions. The results demonstrate the mutable use of group-based essentialist self-attributions as a response to manipulation of positive/negative trait presentation of the ingroup. Consequently, group-essentialization is not a static property of a group but situationally and strategically variable. Exploration of reversed minority-majority situations reveals additional aspects of this variability.