Infants possess an abstract expectation of ingroup support

Kyong sun Jin, Renée Baillargeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

One pervasive facet of human interactions is the tendency to favor ingroups over outgroups. Remarkably, this tendency has been observed even when individuals are assigned to minimal groups based on arbitrary markers. Why is mere categorization into a minimal group sufficient to elicit some degree of ingroup favoritism? We consider several accounts that have been proposed in answer to this question and then test one particular account, which holds that ingroup favoritism reflects in part an abstract and early-emerging sociomoral expectation of ingroup support. In violation-of-expectation experiments with 17-mo-old infants, unfamiliar women were first identified (using novel labels) as belonging to the same group, to different groups, or to unspecified groups. Next, one woman needed instrumental assistance to achieve her goal, and another woman either provided the necessary assistance (help event) or chose not to do so (ignore event). When the two women belonged to the same group, infants looked significantly longer if shown the ignore as opposed to the help event; when the two women belonged to different groups or to unspecified groups, however, infants looked equally at the two events. Together, these results indicate that infants view helping as expected among individuals from the same group, but as optional otherwise. As such, the results demonstrate that from an early age, an abstract expectation of ingroup support contributes to ingroup favoritism in human interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8199-8204
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume114
Issue number31
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017

Keywords

  • Infant cognition
  • Ingroup favoritism
  • Ingroup support
  • Minimal groups
  • Sociomoral reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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