Children imitate antisocial in-group members

Dev Sci. 2018 Nov;21(6):e12675. doi: 10.1111/desc.12675. Epub 2018 Apr 25.


Children demonstrate a pervasive in-group bias, preferring their in-group across a range of contexts that encompass measures of liking, imitation, and, in some cases, resource allocation. A growing number of studies have begun to explore whether antisocial in-group behavior reduces the robustness of this bias. However, these studies have focused on transgression evaluations, with only two studies focusing on social learning and none explicitly on imitation. This, therefore, limits the extent to which children's responses to interaction between in-group bias and antisocial behavior can be fully understood. The current research expands on the prevailing literature, utilizing imitation as a behavioral measure to explore the reactions of children aged 4-5 and 7-8 years in response to antisocial in-group behavior. Consistent with previous literature, antisocial in-group behavior reduced in-group liking ratings. Surprisingly, however, children's behavioral imitation preferences were guided solely by group membership, disregarding prosocial or antisocial behavior. These results indicate that children's explicitly reported social preferences and imitative preferences may be motivated by two independent drives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Psychological Distance
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Identification
  • Social Norms