Non-verbal cues can create prejudice against larger groups

If children are exposed to prejudice against a person, will they develop a prejudice against that person’s whole group? The answer is yes, according to a new study by University of Georgia social psychologist Allison Skinner. The results of the study are the first to show that non-verbal signals can produce new biases that generalize to entire groups and classes of people.

“Our results indicate that the process of acquiring bias based on nonverbal cues – and extending that bias to a larger group – is already in place in early childhood, before the start of the first year”, said Skinner, senior author and assistant professor of psychology at Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “Exposure to biased non-verbal signals can be an important process by which group biases are quickly and unintentionally transmitted within our culture. “

Her study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, explores the generalization of bias in preschool children aged 4 and 5.

With co-authors Kristina R. Olson and Andrew N. Meltzoff (both from the University of Washington), Skinner tested whether preschoolers who saw an individual received more positive non-verbal cues than another. would lead to developing a bias in favor of that individual’s group – and if such bias would be generalized to broad categories of people, for example those of the same nationality.

In the experiments, children watched a video in which an adult actor displayed positive non-verbal cues – appearing warm and friendlier – towards an unknown adult from a fictitious location and negative non-verbal cues towards an unknown adult from a fictitious location. other place. Preschoolers were then asked questions to assess their biases towards adults in the videos and towards others of their “nationality”.

“The prejudices of children went beyond simply preferring people in one place over another,” Skinner said. “They were more likely to mimic the words and actions exhibited by the target with positive nonverbal cues, and they preferred to interact with this individual’s group members.”

This study follows his previously published work on the role of non-verbal signals in the propagation of attitudes and prejudices in adults. In a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Skinner found that adults formed conscious attitudes towards an individual by witnessing positive or negative non-verbal cues displayed towards that person. They also formed unconscious attitudes, but they were likely to misattribute the cause, according to Skinner.

“People were more likely to attribute their attitude to how the individual behaved rather than how the individual was treated by others,” she said. “It didn’t matter if the person answered in a neutral way. If people treated him like he was behaving like a jerk, then that was their inference. “

To read the full study, visit: psycnet

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