Date of Conferral

2017

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Kimberly Cox

Abstract

Cognitive epistemic systems are reasoning structures that promote an individual's categorization of group members through processes known as cognitive epistemic essentialist entitativity (EEE). The propensity of these processes to become stagnant is known to lead to stereotyping and prejudiced behaviors when individuals are presented with ambiguous information about outgroup members. Educational materials about the contributions, cultural patterns, and social customs of ethnic and cultural groups can reduce stereotyping and prejudiced behaviors. However, whether being presented this material through multicultural psychosocial education in a formal setting is an effective strategy to influence the malleability of EEE processes has not been addressed as a means to shift xenophobic and prejudice discourse. The purpose of this quasi-experimental study was to determine whether malleability of EEE processes resulted from the presentation of multicultural psychosocial educational material in a college classroom. The epistemic need for closure theory, intergroup contact theory, and essentialist theory of race provided the framework for the study. The Essentialist Entitativity Scale was used to compare the malleability of EEE processes of 67 college students who completed an 8-week course based on multicultural psychosocial educational material and 67 college students who did not. An ANCOVA analysis of pre- and posttest data revealed that students who received the culturally rich educational material reported significantly greater malleability of EEE processes than those who did not. Findings may be used to inform educators, educational leaders, and social activists about the malleability of EEE processes, and may provide a strategy to reduce racism, stereotyping, xenophobia, and prejudice.