Essential differences? Constructing frames of reference in spontaneous explanations of differences between the British and the Irish.

Hegarty, P. J. (2013). Essential differences? Constructing frames of reference in spontaneous explanations of differences between the British and the Irish. Irish Journal of Psychology, 34(1) 35 - 48.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03033910.2012.754326

Abstract

Past research has found that explanations of group differences focus attention on lower status and less prototypical social groups, whilst positioning higher status and more prototypical groups as the norm for comparison. The present experiment examined attention in explanations of national group differences. Two hundred and thirty-nine Irish and British students read vignettes that attributed either relatively more overconsumption of alcohol, or of fatty foods, to either Irish or British people, and wrote explanations of these group differences in their own words. As predicted, the explanations focused more on the group described as over-consumers. Participants did not explain the national out-group more than the national in-group and did not explain the Irish or the British more. Rather, explanations focused particularly on the Irish only when they were described as over-consumers of alcohol. These findings show flexibility in the setting of norms for comparison, and an influence of essentialist stereotypes, rather than ethnocentrism or historical power differences, on the spontaneous framing of explanations of group differences.

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