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Child Dev. 2008 May-Jun;79(3):577-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01144.x.

Development of social category representations: early appreciation of roles and deontic relations.

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1
Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin, 1025 West Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53711, USA. cwkalish@wisc.edu

Abstract

Three experiments explored the significance of deontic properties (involving rights and obligations) in representations of social categories. Preschool-aged children (M = 4.8), young school-aged children (M = 8.2), and adults judged the centrality of behavioral, psychological, and deontic properties for both familiar (Experiments 1 and 2, Ns = 50 and 52, respectively) and novel (Experiment 3, N = 64) social categories. Preschool-aged children were the most consistent in treating deontic properties as central: Knowing a person's social category membership was more informative about obligations than about behavioral frequencies or psychological preferences. Adults treated deontic properties as central to some categories but also recognized a set that was primarily predictive of psychological dispositions. The results argue for the significance of deontic properties in the development of social cognition.

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