Social categories guide young children’s preferences for novel objects

Authors


Kristin Shutts, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1202 West Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53706, USA; e-mail: kshutts@wisc.edu

Abstract

To whom do children look when deciding on their own preferences? To address this question, 3-year-old children were asked to choose between objects or activities that were endorsed by unfamiliar people who differed in gender, race (White, Black), or age (child, adult). In Experiment 1, children demonstrated robust preferences for objects and activities endorsed by children of their own gender, but less consistent preferences for objects and activities endorsed by children of their own race. In Experiment 2, children selected objects and activities favored by people of their own gender and age. In neither study did most children acknowledge the influence of these social categories. These findings suggest that gender and age categories are encoded spontaneously and influence children’s preferences and choices. For young children, gender and age may be more powerful guides to preferences than race.

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