Minimal Groups Increase Young Children's Motivation and Learning on Group-Relevant Tasks


  • We thank Luke Butler, Priyanka Carr, Carol Dweck, Mike Frank, Grace Van Berkel, Tyler Hillman, and members of the Dweck-Walton lab for helpful comments and feedback; Isa Dillingham, Aya Inamori, Cole Murphy-Hockett, and Sadie Zapata for assistance; and children, staff, and teachers at Bing Nursery School for their participation, assistance, and support. This research was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and an American Psychological Foundation Koppitz Fellowship awarded to the first author.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Allison Master, Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, University of Washington, PO Box 321525, Seattle, WA 98195. Electronic mail may be sent to


Three experiments (= 130) used a minimal group manipulation to show that just perceived membership in a social group boosts young children's motivation for and learning from group-relevant tasks. In Experiment 1, 4-year-old children assigned to a minimal “puzzles group” persisted longer on a challenging puzzle than children identified as the “puzzles child” or children in a control condition. Experiment 2 showed that this boost in motivation occurred only when the group was associated with the task. In Experiment 3, children assigned to a minimal group associated with word learning learned more words than children assigned an analogous individual identity. The studies demonstrate that fostering shared motivations may be a powerful means by which to shape young children's academic outcomes.