Gender and Race as Guides for Children’s Expectations of Intergroup Behavior
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As children grow up, they develop theories of social categories that guide them and shape their understanding of what it means to be part of a group. Past work has demonstrated that young children hold different expectations for how group members will interact with one another versus how they will interact with outgroup members. The present study extends this literature by investigating the extent to which children use race and gender to predict mean behaviors, nice behaviors, friendship patterns, and similarity. Children aged 3 to 7 years participated through Lookit, an online platform for developmental research. They were presented with images of an agent, an ingroup member, and an outgroup member, and were then asked to select the person whom the agent would direct an action toward. Children held different expectations of social interactions depending on behavior type and whether they were reasoning about race or gender. Effects of participant gender and race were analyzed but should be considered carefully due to small sample size. This study advanced prior work by including race and gender categories, four interaction types, children from a broad range of backgrounds, and the use of Lookit as the research platform. It also identified discrepancies between children’s abstract theories of social categorization, as shown in novel groups studies, and their real-world social cognition. Finally, the impact of children’s race and gender is examined, establishing that these factors must be considered in this field of research. Limitations and recommendations for future studies are discussed.
Seniors honors thesis / Open Access
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