Reducing an in-group bias in preschool children: The impact of moral behavior

Chelsea Hetherington, Caroline Hendrickson, Melissa Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

How impressionable are in-group biases in early childhood? Previous research shows that young children display robust preferences for members of their own social group, but also condemn those who harm others. The current study investigates children's evaluations of agents when their group membership and moral behavior conflict. After being assigned to a minimal group, 4- to 5-year-old children either saw their in-group member behave antisocially, an out-group member act prosocially, or control agents, for whom moral information was removed. Children's explicit preference for and willingness to share with their in-group member was significantly attenuated in the presence of an antisocial in-group member, but not a prosocial out-group member. Interestingly, children's learning decisions were unmoved by a person's moral behavior, instead being consistently guided by group membership. This demonstrates that children's in-group bias is remarkably flexible: while moral information curbs children's in-group bias on social evaluations, social learning is still driven by group information. How impressionable are in-group biases in early childhood? Previous research shows that children display robust preferences for members of their own social group, but also condemn those who harm others. The current study investigates children's evaluations of agents when their group membership and moral behavior come into conflict. Results highlight the remarkable flexibility of children's in-group bias: while moral information curbed this bias on explicit social evaluations, children's selective learning decisions were still driven by group information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1042-1049
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Science
Volume17
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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