Undergraduate Research Spotlight – Zaina Khoury
Zaina Khoury, Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience Honors, class of 2019
Zaina Khoury is working on her Honors Thesis, titled "Wealth Essentialism in Children and Adults," under the mentorship of Drs. Susan Gelman and Margaret Echelbarger in the Conceptual Development Lab. Psychological essentialism is the idea that certain categories, such as "male" or "wealthy," are defined by underlying, innate, and non-obvious features. In other words, essentialist reasoning posits that someone is born with a particular quality, that they will always possess the quality, and that it may be used to categorize the individual. Their study will focus on wealth; specifically, the qualities of richness and poorness, and assess the degree to which adults and children alike essentialize each property. They will also examine the potential relationship between children's essentialism scores and those of their parents. Being able to reliably essentialize certain qualities may be helpful in constructing categories and predicting characteristics of novel concepts or objects. Essentialist reasoning about people may be conducive to harmful stereotypes and premature judgments. Understanding how we categorize others could one day reduce the harm inflicted by negative stereotypes and encourage a more inclusive society.
Khoury is deeply appreciative of the opportunities the honors program gives students to explore their interests. While finishing her thesis this spring, Khoury will apply to medical schools with an eye toward becoming a pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist.