Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)
Phylogenetic and Ontogenetic Foundations of Social Power Reasoning
Previous research has suggested that infants exhibit a preference for familiar over unfamiliar social groups (e.g., preferring individuals from their own language group over individuals from a foreign language group). However, it is not clear whether such intergroup preferences are driven by positivity toward the familiar group and/or negativity toward the unfamiliar group. Using a novel habituation paradigm modeled conceptually after the Implicit Association Test, experiments 1-3 demonstrated that infants around 1-year of age positively evaluate the familiar language group, but do not negatively evaluate an unfamiliar language group. Experiments 4-5 addressed alternative interpretations of this core finding. Experiment 6 conceptually replicated Experiments 1-3, demonstrating that infants also expect members of the familiar language group (but not members of an unfamiliar group) to engage in prosocial behaviours. Together these data suggest that children’s early social group behaviours (e.g., toy choice, preferential looking) may be shaped by positive evaluations of familiar group(s), rather than negative evaluations of unfamiliar groups.
Implicit intergroup bias emerges early in development and exerts a powerful influence on an individual's social preferences and behaviors across the lifespan. While interventions to change these biases (e.g., racial bias) have been successful in adults, the magnitude of change is still notably small. No studies thus far have investigated whether these biases might be more amenable to change at different periods in development. Two studies examined potential developmental differences in the malleability of implicit bias. The first study examined the formation and malleability of novel implicit attitudes and stereotypes among children ages 5-12. The second study examined the effectiveness of a specific intervention, exposure to counter-stereotypical exemplars, to reduce an existing implicit bias (race attitudes) among similarly aged children. Results indicated that for a novel implicit bias, there were no differences by age in the capacity to form and change implicit associations. In contrast, for an existing implicit bias, exposure to counter-stereotypical exemplars successfully reduced biases for children nine years-of-age and older, but not for younger children. Together, these findings suggest that while the capacity to form implicit associations remains fairly continuous across development, there are nonetheless notable developmental differences in the ability to change such associations. Several potential mechanisms underlying this developmental change will be discussed.