Through a different lens: examining the effect of person construal on children's implicit attitudes
Lipman, Corey Michael
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Research suggests that non-Black children show an implicit pro-White (versus Black) bias from early childhood (Baron & Banaji, 2006; Dunham, Baron, & Banaji, 2008). Across four studies I examined whether encouraging children to construe targets along a dimension other than race could eliminate this bias. Children aged 5- to 10-years completed an Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) containing smiling Black and neutral White targets (Studies 1, 2, and 4) or same-sex Black and other-sex White targets (Study 3). Consistent with previous findings, when children construed targets by race, they demonstrated an implicit pro-White bias. However, when children construed these same targets by emotional expression (or, in Study 3, by gender), their biases differed reliably; children showed greater implicit positivity towards smiling Black (or same-sex Black) targets relative to neutral White (or other-sex White) targets. In Study 4 children's implicit biases were similarly attenuated following a brief intervention in which an adult made functional use of emotional expression, and this was mediated by children's decreased use of race as a basis for social categorization. Taken together, these studies provide insight into the impact of person construal on children's implicit biases and suggest that even in childhood implicit attitudes are online constructions that integrate preexisting associations and contextual cues.