What is a group? Young children's perceptions of different types of groups and group entitativity

Maria Plötner, Harriet Over, Malinda Carpenter, Michael Tomasello

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20 Citations (Scopus)
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To date, developmental research on groups has focused mainly on in-group biases and intergroup relations. However, little is known about children’s general understanding of social groups and their perceptions of different forms of group. In this study, 5- to 6-year-old children were asked to evaluate prototypes of four key types of groups: an intimacy group (friends), a task group (people who are collaborating), a social category (people who look alike), and a loose association (people who coincidently meet at a tram stop). In line with previous work with adults, the vast majority of children perceived the intimacy group, task group, and social category, but not the loose association, to possess entitativity, that is, to be a ‘real group.’ In addition, children evaluated group member properties, social relations, and social obligations differently in each type of group, demonstrating that young children are able to distinguish between different types of in-group relations. The origins of the general group typology used by adults thus appear early in development. These findings contribute to our knowledge about children's intuitive understanding of groups and group members' behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0152001
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2016


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