Diversity and difference in communication
Diversity and difference in communication

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Diversity and difference in communication

2.3.1 An essentialist perspective

One way of understanding apparent differences in people’s behaviour and needs is to account for them as a direct result of their membership of a particular social group or category. For example, it might be suggested that a patient expresses herself in a very physical way because she is of African-Caribbean origin, and therefore because of certain innate biological or psychological attributes shared by all members of that ethnic group. Or it might be argued that a male manager behaves aggressively and competitively in a meeting because that is simply the way men are. According to this view, apparent differences in behaviour are innate within the person, as a member of a particular group, and they remain fairly fixed and stable throughout their lives. Difference is seen as an ‘essence’, something belonging to the person which they bring to an interaction. Some essentialist arguments locate the roots of difference in people’s genetic or biological make-up, while others identify upbringing and socialisation within the family (in the case of gender, for example) or within the social group (in the case of ethnicity and culture). Either way, what all essentialist views have in common is a tendency to see difference as working ‘from the inside out’, as something that is fairly fixed and stable within particular groups and the individuals who belong to them. As you might expect, essentialist approaches to issues of difference tend to be linked to various psychological perspectives. This does not mean everyone working within a psychological perspective can be labelled ‘essentialist’. However, it is broadly true that a psychological perspective tends to see differences as residing within an individual or a group, rather than as the result of social processes.

Figure 6.1
The way we understand ‘difference’ determines how we respond to it in the context of health and social care

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371