Social categories as markers of intrinsic interpersonal obligations.
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Social categorization is an early-developing feature of human social cognition, yet the role that social categories play in how children understand and predict human behavior has been unclear. These studies test whether a foundational functional role of social categories is to mark people as intrinsically obligated (e.g., to protect, not to harm) to one another. In three studies, children (ages 3-9, N = 124) viewed only within-category harm as violating intrinsic obligations; in contrast, they viewed between-category harm as violating extrinsic obligations defined by explicit rules. These data indicate that children view social categories as marking patterns of intrinsic interpersonal obligations, suggesting that a key function of social categories is to support inferences about how people will relate to members of their own and other groups.
Rhodes, M., & Chalik, L. (2013). Social categories as markers of intrinsic interpersonal obligations. Psychological Science, 24, 999-1006.
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