ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (12): 2091-2104.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.02091

• Conceptual Framework •     Next Articles

Psychological development mechanism of in-group favoritism during fairness norm enforcement

ZHANG Zhen, LI Haiwen, XIONG Jianping, ZHAO Hui, LIU Ruixue, QI Chunhui   

  1. Faculty of Education, Henan Normal University, Xinxiang 453007, China
  • Received:2021-02-03 Online:2021-12-15 Published:2021-10-26

Abstract: Group norms and fair values run through human society and play an important role in individual development and social prosperity. Based on the analysis of the existing literature, we found that there are three scientific issues that need to be resolved urgently in this field. First, people sometimes were more likely to accept an unfair offer from in-groups, reflecting the pattern of in-group favoritism, but sometimes people were also more likely to punish norm violations from in-group members, revealing the form of the so-called black sheep effect. Therefore, the robustness of the in-group favoritism during fairness norm enforcement needs to be verified. Second, previous studies have shown that both cognitive control and mentalizing are related to group norms and fair values, and there is a large overlap with the two in the trajectory of psychological development. Therefore, the role of cognitive control and mentalizing in this phenomenon still needs to be revealed. Third, one theory considers that the in-group favoritism during fairness norm enforcement increases with age, while another theory believes that it remains stable or gradually decreases with age. Hence, during childhood and adolescence, it is still unclear how individuals integrate the gradually formed group norms and fair values. In summary, to improve the fairness perception and norm enforcement of children and adolescents in inter-group interactions, it is an essential issue in the field of educational psychology about how to reveal the interactive mechanism of group norms and fairness values during individuals’ psychological development.
From a methodological point of view, the existing research still has the following shortcomings. First, most studies use questionnaires, which are easily affected by social participation. Second, most of the research uses scenario experiments with an emphasis on the final behavioral output of social interaction while failing to effectively grasp the dynamic process of social decision-making. Finally, electroencephalogram (EEG) studies with the high temporal resolution are still lacking to reveal the dynamic process of the brain. This project aims to clarify these issues by employing a cognitive neuroscience method. Specifically, multilevel techniques, including self-reported, cognitive-behavioral, eye-tracking, and electrophysiological techniques, were used to examine the mechanism behind in-group favoritism of fairness norm enforcement from childhood to adolescence. We designed three series of experiments to explore the developmental process, and the role of cognitive control and mentalizing of this phenomenon from the perspective of psychological development.
Study 1 uses the minimal group paradigm to manipulate group identity, requires participants as responders to complete classic ultimatum game tasks with the ingroup and outgroup members, and reports their perception and behavioral data, aiming to investigate the perception-behavior trajectory of the development of the in-group favoritism during the second-party norm enforcement. Using the eye movement technology, study 2 manipulates group identity with the help of gender cues and requires subjects to act as responders to complete the mini ultimatum game task with the ingroup and outgroup members, thereby revealing the eye movement attention pattern of the development of the in-group favoritism during the reciprocal norm enforcement. Using the electrophysiological technology, study 3 adopts nationality clues to manipulate group identity, requires participants to act as responders and complete third-party punishment game tasks with both in-group and out-group players, and then investigates the brain dynamic mechanism of the development of the in-group favoritism during the third-party norm enforcement.
This project aims to clarify the psychological development trajectory of the interaction between group norms and fair values and its cognitive mechanism. Findings will support moral education in primary and secondary schools. Meanwhile, findings can cultivate students' sense of fairness and justice, and ultimately promote the construction of a civic moral education system.

Key words: fairness norm enforcement, ingroup favoritism, psychological development, cognitive control, mentalizing

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