Back to RJ Archive

Social class rank, essentialism, and punitive judgement.

Kraus, Michael W
June 4, 2015

Source: (2013) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 105(2):247-261.

Recent evidence suggests that perceptions of social class rank influence a variety of social cognitive
tendencies, from patterns of causal attribution to moral judgment. In the present studies we tested the
hypotheses that upper-class rank individuals would be more likely to endorse essentialist lay theories of social
class categories (i.e., that social class is founded in genetically based, biological differences) than would
lower-class rank individuals and that these beliefs would decrease support for restorative justice—which seeks
to rehabilitate offenders, rather than punish unlawful action. Across studies, higher social class rank was
associated with increased essentialism of social class categories (Studies 1, 2, and 4) and decreased support
for restorative justice (Study 4). Moreover, manipulated essentialist beliefs decreased preferences for restorative
justice (Study 3), and the association between social class rank and class-based essentialist theories was
explained by the tendency to endorse beliefs in a just world (Study 2). Implications for how class-based
essentialist beliefs potentially constrain social opportunity and mobility are discussed. (authors’ abstract)


Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now