Children's use of categories and mental states to predict social behavior

Lisa Chalik, Cyrielle Rivera, Marjorie Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Integrating generic information about categories with knowledge of specific individuals is a critical component of successful inductive inferences. The present study tested whether children's approach to this task systematically shifts as they develop causal understandings of the mechanisms that shape individual action. In the current study, 3-and 4-year-old children (N = 65) predicted harmful behaviors in scenarios that pitted category-based expectations-that individuals will harm members of opposing social categories-against expectations about agents' mental states-that individuals will harm people they are mad at. As children developed more advanced theories of mind, they became more likely to predict the agent's behavior on the basis of individual mental states instead of category memberships. Thus, as children develop causal understandings of the mechanisms that shape individual behavior, they are more likely to override generic category information to base inferences on the relevant features of specific individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2360-2367
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume50
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Causal mechanisms
  • Social categorization
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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