A collaborative study by four professors in the Psychology Department was published in the January 2013 issue of Developmental Science.
“Minimal-group membership influences children’s responses to novel experience with group members,” was written by lead author Mariah Schug, visiting assistant professor of psychology, together with Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology; Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology, chair of psychology; and Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology.
The study examined how children’s preference for members of their “ingroup” over those in an “outgroup” affects their processing of information. Children participating in the study observed ingroup and outgroup members acting in either a positive (egalitarian) or a negative (stingy) manner. When they observed positive ingroup and negative outgroup behaviors, they reliably had a lower opinion of novel outgroup members. But observing negative ingroup and positive outgroup behaviors had little effect on how much they liked members of each group. Moreover, children successfully identified the more generous group only when the ingroup was egalitarian and the outgroup was stingy. The study provides compelling evidence that children treat knowledge and experiences with ingroup and outgroups differently, and thereby interpret differently identical observations of ingroup versus outgroup members.