Philosophy Professor Ron Mallon from Washington University in St. Louis will deliver a speech titled “Minimal Identities, Social Intuitionism, and the Robustness of Social Kinks” at 4 p.m. Friday, October 9, in 401A Stevenson Hall.
Much work on social categories like race focuses upon the content of representations of the category. For instance, in the case of race, much work notes that racial thinking is essentialist and that it imposes an evaluative hierarchy among racial classifications. However, there is an old tradition in social psychology, persisting into contemporary social neuroscience, that suggests that minimal identities are playing an important role in motiving in-group and out-group behavior.
In this talk, I draw this contrast more fully, and I consider some recent evidence favoring the importance of minimal identities. I then propose a model of the relationship between minimal identities and our explicit theories of social kinds, employing social intuitionism in moral psychology as a model. Having done this, I argue that even if we assume the model is essentially correct, there are structural considerations for why minimal identities do not offer easy social interventions for category reform or elimination.