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Research interests: Social-cognitive development, conceptual development, social-cognition, categorization, inductive reasoning, stereotypes, attitudes, person-perception, causal reasoning, knowledge acquisition, implicit processes
Through the following three lines of research, my work examines the development of intergroup cognition.
Acquisition of Social Category Concepts
In this line of research, I investigate the mechanisms that support social categorization and inductive reasoning (stereotyping). In particular, I explore how children determine which properties delineate the social groups in their environment. Solving this feat is not easy as dimensions of social classification (e.g., race, gender, occupation, caste, political orientation) differ remarkably in their outward appearance, casual history, and the permeability of group boundaries, making it less obvious what general principles of categorization could apply. Relatedly, I also explore how children learn which inferences are supported by membership in a given social group. Indeed, the power of categorization is that it supports the generation of inferences about an individual in the absence of direct experience. However, the properties projected by social groups (e.g., behaviors, dispositions, beliefs, preferences, language, friendship choices) differ as widely as the possible dimensions of social classification. Through this research I address whether children develop either an implicit or an explicit theory about social relationships that encompasses principled intuitions about how category members relate to one another. My work in this area primarily focuses on children ages 3-8 with occasional studies of both infants and adults.
The Development of Implicit Intergroup Evaluations
In this line of research, I model the development of the implicit evaluative system. Using a modified version of the Implicit Association Test called the Child IAT (Baron & Banaji, 2006), I investigate the cultural and cognitive origins of implicit constructs in children including implicit attitudes, stereotypes, self-identity, and self-esteem. With regard to dual-process theories of social-cognition, this research also examines the relationship between the acquistion and development of these implicit representations and their explicit counterparts. My work in this area primarily focuses on children ages 5-12 from a variety of social-economic and ethnic backgrounds. More recently, I have begun investigating the relationship between infants' preference for the familiar and their later emerging implicit and explicit evaluative systems. My research also explores the relationship between implicit evaluations and children's bias-driven behavior.
Click here to download a sample version of the Child Implicit Association Test program.
Consequences of Group Membership on Social Reasoning
In this line of research, I investigate the role of the self in intergroup cognition. In particular, I focus on the acquisition and development of children's representations of ingroup and outgroup and the role these concepts play in lay theories of social relationships. I aim to understand the varied ways in which one's group membership affects the acquisition and development of stereotypes and social group preferences. I am also interested in the consequences of group membership for information processing (e.g., memory, evaluation) of objective information. My work in this area primarily focuses on children ages 3-8 with occasional studies of toddlers and adults.