Tamar Kushnir
Cornell University
We tested whether preschool-aged children (N = 280) track an agents’ choices of individuals from novel social groups (i.e., social choices) to infer an agent’s social preferences and the social status of the groups. Across experiments, children saw a box containing 2 groups (red and blue toy cats). In Experiment 1, children were randomly assigned to Social Selection in which items were described as “friends,” or to Object Selection in which items were described as “toys.” Within each selection type, the agent selected 5 items from either a numerically common group (82% of box; selections appearing random) or a numerically rare group (18% of box; selections violating random sampling). After watching these selections, children were asked who the agent would play with among 3 individuals: 1 from the selected group, 1 from the unselected group, or 1 from a novel group. Only participants who viewed Social Selection of a numerically rare group predicted that the agent would select an individual from that group in the future. These participants also said an individual from the selected group was the “leader.” Subsequent experiments further probed the Social Selection findings. Children’s reasoning depended on the agent actively selecting the friends (Experiment 2), and children thought a member of the rare selected group was the leader, but not the “helper” (Experiment 3). These results illustrate that children track an agent’s positive social choices to reason about that agent’s social preferences and to infer the status (likelihood of being a leader) of novel social groups.
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DOI 10.1037/xge0001008
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