Posted by & filed under Aggression, Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Attitude Formation Change, Child Development, Cognitive Development: The Information-Processing Approach, Early Social and Emotional development, Families and Peers, Gender-Role Development Sex Differences, Human Development, Intergroup Relations, Moral Development, Social Cognition, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination.

Description: From our Canadian perspective American presidential elections are often a source of interest, fascination, and sometimes concern. The current election race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has raised a surprisingly large number of psychologically relevant points, issues and concerns. An article I posted earlier this year ( talked about how psychologists are ethically bound to only make diagnostic statements about people who they have directly assessed. This is in response to the number of people claiming that Donald Trump had to be either narcissistic or just plain crazy given his extreme views and wild statements. The article linked below simply uses Donald as an example and delves into the question of how it is that young children learn about in-group out-group prejudice. As you read it try not to get overly focused upon the extreme example of potential effects on children provided by Donald Trump and think instead about the more general question of how children pick up prejudices that may be available to them within their cultural communities. Also, think a little bit about what parents might do to limit the impact of such potentially negative learning experiences.

Source: How Kids Learn Prejudice, Katherine D. Kinzler, Gray Matter, Sunday Review, New York Times.

Date: October 21, 2016


Photo Credit:  Marion Fayolle, New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

Ideally we would like to have our children consider each and every person they meet as a unique individual and not to prejudge them based on any obvious or not so obvious group affiliations they may have. This however, is an incredibly complicated process, and one which, if it is accomplished, typically arrives relatively late in development. It is important to understand what children seem to be prepared to pick up in the way of culturally or locally defined in-group and out-group statements especially when they’re being offered in such bold formats by political candidates such as Donald Trump in the United States 2016 presidential election race. The author of the linked article talks about children as cultural sponges and how it is important to think about what this means. Young children are engaged in processes of trying to calibrate their views of the world. This means that it’s important for them to notice how people are supposed to dress how people are supposed to eat what people are supposed to say if they are to be recognized as a viable participant in the particular cultural and physical communities in which they live. Research discussed in the article indicates that children are quite quick to pick up from stories which have two fictitious groups which group is wealthier and to go on to decide on their own that they like the wealthier people better. Gender stereotypes are another area where much research has indicated that children seem intent on picking up what is considered “appropriate” within their cultural community with regards to roles for males and females. Of particular concern is that children seem to be inclined to more consistently note negative information rather than positive information about recognizable groups around them. It is encouraging, however, to see that systematically providing children with a an array of positive information to counterbalance any negative information they may have acquired does indeed seem to have a strong effect on reducing the negative valence of the implicit attitudes children may have already developed about certain groups of people. So, should we be worried about a Trump effect? Well, as is typically true of much advice to parents, we need to be prepared to discuss with our young children things they may be hearing especially when they raise concern about them themselves and we need to provide them with a balanced array of positive information about the groups they interact with directly or indirectly as they grow and develop.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sort of stereotypes and prejudices to young children seem inclined or prepared to pick up?
  2. Why might it be that young children seem particularly to tune into negative information that they hear about groups around them?
  3. What might parents, and the rest of us for that matter, do to reduce or eliminate the potentially negative impact of things like the Trump effect?

References (Read Further):

The Trump Effect:

Dunham, Yarrow, Andrew S. Baron, and Mahzarin R. Banaji. “The development of implicit intergroup cognition.” Trends in cognitive sciences 12.7 (2008): 248-253.

Tomasello, M. (2016). A natural history of human morality. Harvard University Press.

Gonzalez, A. M., Steele, J. R., & Baron, A. S. (2016). Reducing Children’s Implicit Racial Bias Through Exposure to Positive Out‐Group Exemplars. Child Development.

Hilliard, L. J., & Liben, L. S. (2010). Differing levels of gender salience in preschool classrooms: Effects on children’s gender attitudes and intergroup bias. Child development, 81(6), 1787-1798.

Bigler, R. S. (1995). The role of classification skill in moderating environmental influences on children’s gender stereotyping: A study of the functional use of gender in the classroom. Child Development, 66(4), 1072-1087.

Baltazar, N. C., Shutts, K., & Kinzler, K. D. (2012). Children show heightened memory for threatening social actions. Journal of experimental child psychology, 112(1), 102-110.

Mann, T. C., & Ferguson, M. J. (2015). Can we undo our first impressions? The role of reinterpretation in reversing implicit evaluations.