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Culture, Brain Transplants and Implicit Theories of Identity

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Using a brain transplant paradigm (BT), we examined the role of culture and status (privileged group membership) on beliefs about social and personal identity among Indians (Brahmins and Dalits, N = 202) and American participants (N = 114). Participants were presented a vignette about a hypothetical BT between members of two different ethnic groups and asked the following two questions: (a) whether a BT would change how the recipient would act; (b) whether the BT would change the social identity of the recipient. Americans believed that the BT recipient would act as the ethnicity of the donor. By contrast, Brahmin participants believed that a Brahmin recipient of a Dalit (formerly treated as "untouchables") brain would act like a Dalit but a Dalit who received a BT from a Brahmin would not act like a Brahmin. Both Americans and Indians believed that the social identity (the caste, race or ethnic identity) of a person would not be changed by a brain transplant. The role of culture and social status in affecting various implicit theories of identities are discussed.

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