Patterns of Implicit and Explicit Attitudes in Children and Adults: Tests in the Domain of Religion
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CitationHeiphetz, Larisa, Elizabeth S. Spelke, and Mahzarin R. Banaji. 2013. Patterns of Implicit and Explicit Attitudes in Children and Adults: Tests in the Domain of Religion. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 142, no. 3: 864–879.
AbstractAmong the most replicated results in social cognition is the split between explicit and implicit attitudes; adults demonstrate weaker group-based preferences on explicit rather than implicit measures. However, the developmental origins of this pattern remain unclear. If implicit attitudes develop over a protracted period of time, children should not demonstrate the implicit preferences observed among adults. Additionally, unlike adults, children may report group-based preferences due to their lesser concern with social desirability. In Study 1, Christian adults showed the expected pattern of robust implicit preference but no explicit preference. In 4 additional experiments, 6- to 8-year-old children whose parents identified them as Christian viewed characters described as belonging to 2 starkly different religious groups (“strong religious difference”) or 2 relatively similar religious groups (“weak religious difference”). Participants then completed explicit and implicit (IAT) measures of attitude toward Christians and either Hindus (Study 2) or Jews (Studies 3–5). Three main results emerged. First, like adults, children showed significant implicit pro-Christian preferences across all studies. Second, unlike adults, children in the “strong religious difference” case reported preferences of approximately the same magnitude as their implicit attitudes (i.e., no dissociation). Third, even in the “weak religious difference” case, children showed implicit pro-Christian preferences (although, like adults, their explicit attitudes were not sensitive to intergroup difference). These data suggest that the seeds of implicit religious preferences are sown early and that children’s explicit preferences are influenced by the social distance between groups.
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