Salience of Race vs. Gender to Preschool Children

Daniel Clark


Adults categorize others into social groups based on language, gender, ethnicity, and age (Brewer, 1988; Fiske, 1998; Messick & Mackie, 1989; Stangor, Lynch, Duan, & Glass, 1992). These groups may help give a sense of reference and identity (Tajfel & Turner, 2004). Children also seek identities in reference to various social groups (Harter, 1999). Kinzler and Spelke (2011) suggested that children as young as kindergarten-age attend to race in social situations and form preferences based on such social categories. Research conducted by Kinzler, Shutts, DeJesus, and Spelke (2009) provides evidence that certain social categories may be more salient than others. Because individuals may be categorized into multiple social categories simultaneously, is it possible that one social category might be categorized more often than others? For instance, are children and adults more likely to categorize an individual based on the race or gender of the individual? To test this question, we designed an experiment that provided children and adults with a dilemma wherein they had to spontaneously categorize images of faces based on either race or gender. Preliminary results suggest that both children and adults are more likely to categorize individuals based on gender in this particular paradigm.


Race; Gender; Children; Social Categorization

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