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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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Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin, 1025 West Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53711, USA.


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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