In the village of Yapatera, Peru, there exists a folk theory of race which posits that humans cannot be divided into mutually exclusive racial groups and that personhood is both physiologically and socially ‘mixed’. By engaging with the psychological literature on racial essentialism (i.e. the tendency to view humans in terms of discrete categories, as if they were natural kinds), this article digs deeper into the local folk theory of race. Experimental tasks were designed to test the inductive potential of race and revealed that villagers are far more likely to use other social categories (class, religion, kinship and place of origins) than race to base their inferences. The article discusses the use of experimental tasks as a vehicle for a different sort of conversation between ethnographer and informants.