Stigma may differ depending on the timing of group-membership entry, whether a person was "born that way" or "became that way." Disability, a highly understudied minority group, varies on this domain. Three studies demonstrated that congenital disability is more stigmatized than acquired disability and essentialism and blame moderate and mediate this effect. Congenital disability was more stigmatized than the acquired version of the same disability (Studies 1–2). People with congenital disability were more essentialized, but less blamed than people with acquired disability (Study 2). Manipulating onset and essentialism revealed that when disability was acquired, low essentialism predicted greater stigma through blame (Study 3). However, when disability was congenital, essentialism did not affect stigma through blame. For stigmatized groups unlikely to be blamed for their group membership, reducing essentialism could ameliorate stigma, but for groups that might be blamed for their group membership, increasing essentialism may be a tool to reduce stigma by reducing blame.
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. Forthcoming.