Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Foundations of intergroup cognition
by Baron, Andrew Scott, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2010, 163; 3395407
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the development of intergroup cognition across eight experiments. Part I examines the acquisition and development of social category concepts among 3-8-year-olds. Specifically, four experiments investigated the role that different visual and linguistic cues to category membership play in establishing inferentially rich representations of social groups. Across these experiments linguistic cues to group membership supported more category-based inferences compared with salient visual cues to category membership (e.g., skin color and hat color). Moreover, participants did not differentiate between kinds of visual cues to category membership (e.g., intrinsic and non-intrinsic cues) in terms of their category-based inferences and such cues to group membership were found to be neither necessary nor sufficient for social categorization below age 6.

Parts II and III explore the development of implicit attitudes among 6-year-olds, 10-year-olds, and adults from dominant and non-dominant social groups. Evidence of implicit race attitudes was present in 6-year-olds from a dominant group in the US (White), and strikingly, the magnitude of this bias was similar across development, suggesting that implicit social group evaluations are formed by at least the sixth year of life and remain fairly stable across development. That children from non-dominant groups (Black and Latino) exhibited a similar pattern of a muted ingroup preference as their adult counterparts suggest that by age 6 children from non-dominant groups have already begun to internalize the culturally prescribed status differences between groups and this knowledge is sufficiently potent to attenuate the own group preference observed in children from a socially dominant group.

Part IV investigates the consequence of the representation of group membership (e.g., as an ingroup member or an outgroup member) for the acquisition of intergroup preferences and stereotypes among 6-8-year-olds. These experiments revealed that ingroup positivity quickly emerges, even when these minimal groups resemble nothing like real social groups save being agents. Further, this work revealed that an initial ingroup positivity bias can be attenuated shortly after learning that members of the ingroup have previously engaged in negative social behaviors. Interestingly, this attenuation is not proportional to the amount of negative information associated with the ingroup, suggesting that both the representation of own group membership and knowledge about the past behavior of group members independently influence the acquisition of intergroup preferences and stereotypes.

Drawing on explicit and implicit measures to examine the development of intergroup cognition among dominant and non-dominant social groups (race) as well as for novel groups and minimal groups, these studies speak to the building blocks of intergroup cognition. Collectively, the results from this dissertation reveal children's early sensitivity to dimensions of social categorization, including the internalization of the cultural evaluation of the ingroup and the stability of these implicit representations across development. Finally, this work demonstrates that the acquisition of intergroup attitudes and stereotypes is shaped by the representation of one's group membership.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Banaji, Mahzarin R., Carey, Susan
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-B 71/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Attitudes, Intergroup cognition, Social categories, Social cognitive development, Stereotypes
Publication Number: 3395407
ISBN: 978-1-109-63613-0
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