When Groups Are Not Created Equal: Effects of Group Status on the Formation of Intergroup Attitudes in Children



This study was designed to examine whether the presence of implicit links between social groups and high versus low status attributes affects the formation of intergroup attitudes. Elementary school children aged 7 to 12 years (N=91) were given measures of classification skill and self-esteem, and assigned to one of three types of summer school classrooms in which teachers made (1) functional use of novel (“blue” and “yellow”) social groups that were depicted via posters as varying in status, (2) no explicit use of novel social groups that were, nonetheless, depicted as varying in status, or (3) functional use of novel social groups in the absence of information about status. After 6 weeks, children completed measures of intergroup attitudes. Results indicated that children's intergroup attitudes were affected by the status manipulation when teachers made functional use of the novel groups. Children who were members of high-status (but not low-status) groups developed in-group biased attitudes.