ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (9): 1424-1440.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.01424

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


王阳1,2, 温芳芳1,2, 佐斌3,1()   

  1. 1华中师范大学心理学院暨社会心理研究中心;
    2青少年网络心理与行为教育部重点实验室, 武汉 430079
    3中山大学心理学系, 广州 510006
  • 收稿日期:2021-07-22 发布日期:2023-06-09 出版日期:2023-09-25
  • 通讯作者: 佐斌
  • 作者简介:第一联系人:


  • 基金资助:

The preference and development for societal-type cues in 3- to 8-year-olds’ perception of groups

WANG Yang1,2, WEN Fangfang1,2, ZUO Bin3,1()   

  1. 1School of Psychology, Center for Studies of Social Psychology, Central China Normal University
    2Key Laboratory of Adolescent Cyberpsychology and Behavior, Ministry of Education, Wuhan 430079, China
    3Department of Psychology, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510006, China
  • Received:2021-07-22 Online:2023-06-09 Published:2023-09-25
  • Contact: ZUO Bin


基于社会分类的直觉理论和群体实体性的观点, 本研究建构了物质性和社会性线索类型。两个子研究结合量化和质化方法, 从社会分类视角探索了3~8岁儿童对群体认知线索的偏好及其发展。研究发现, 3~8岁儿童总体上存在社会性线索偏好, 但其稳定性受到了研究选取的线索样例影响。儿童的社会性线索偏好随年龄增长而提升, 自5~6岁开始更为突出和稳定。上述结果既说明了物质性和社会性线索框架的有效性, 又在引导儿童的积极社会互动方面具有实践价值。

关键词: 3~8岁儿童, 群体认知, 线索偏好, 社会分类直觉理论, 广义线性混合模型


Perception of groups develops from an early age. Previous studies focused on groups with perceptual- salient cues like gender and race. As highlighted in the intuitive theories of social categorization, children perceive social groups as natural kinds or serving functional roles of social obligation. However, the priority of these two aspects affecting children’s group perception is yet to be explored. Our current research summarized these two aspects into physical-type and societal-type cues. Physical-type cues are identified by perceptual- salient attributes related to people like color, gender, and socioeconomic status (SES). Societal-type cues reflect shared attitudes, beliefs, and values among group members, such as common interests, group belongings, and norms. It has previously been found that children start to endorse prescriptive norms around age five. Therefore, we assume that children’s preferences for societal-type cues will increase across ages 3 to 8, with a critical period of 5 to 6 years of age.

Study 1 was tested online. A total of 215 children (108 males) ages 3 to 8 were recruited. Three physical-type and three societal-type cues were paired under nine experimental conditions. Two tasks were conducted in random order between the participants: The Triad Classification Task and the Exclusion Task. Both tasks required participants to categorize targets based on one of the two given cues (each represented by one cue-type). In the Triad Classification Task, children needed to select one target from two peers, and in the Exclusion Task, they needed to exclude one target. Study 2 tested 3- to 8-year-old children offline (3- to 4-year-olds: 32 children; 5- to 6-year-olds: 21 children; 7- to 8-year-olds: 20 children). Six cues were combined into two experimental conditions (gender × color × norm vs. SES × common interest × belonging). Children were tested using the Opening Social Categorization Task, in which they categorized eight targets into two groups, and reported the reasons for categorization.

Results of the two studies demonstrated that 3- to 8-year-olds could apply physical-type and societal-type cues to group perception. Specifically, children rely more on societal-type cues than physical-type cues as they grow up. The 3- to 4-year-olds preferred societal-type cues in social categorization tasks with two choices (Study 1), and physical-type cues in tasks offering three choices (Study 2). Children aged 5 to 8 displayed preferences for societal-type cues in the tasks of Study 1, whereas showed no cue preferences in Study 2. Therefore, for young children (3- to 6-year-olds), their preferences for societal-type cues were sensitive to the number of cues provided in the social categorization tasks, and offline versus online measurements. Moreover, children’s cue-type preferences differed significantly between 3- to 4-year-olds (preferred physical-type cues) and 7- to 8-year-olds (preferred societal-type cues). Thus, the critical period for developing a preference for societal cues was 5 to 6 years of age.

This study constructs a new framework of physical-type and societal-type cues to understand children’s social categorization and group perception. These two types of cues reflect children’s perceptual and conceptual foundation in their social categorization. Across ages, children’s ability to apply physical-type and societal-type cues supports the intuitive theory of social categorization that children are naturally perceived as groups from two aspects. Physical and societal aspects may be the basic dimensions of group perception. Future research could extend the present findings to other social categories, and more importantly, provide more neurobiological evidence for children’s biases toward societal-type cues.

Key words: 3- to 8-year-old children, group perception, cue preference, intuitive theory of social categorization, generalized linear mixed model