Stick with your group: Young children's attitudes about group loyalty

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For adults, loyalty to the group is highly valued, yet little is known about how children evaluate loyalty. We investigated children’s attitudes about loyalty in a third-party context. In the first experiment, 4- and 5-year-olds watched a video of two groups com- peting. Two members of the losing group then spoke. The disloyal individual said she wanted to win and therefore would join the other group. The loyal individual said she also wanted to win but would stay with her group. Children were then asked five forced-choice questions about these two individuals’ niceness, trustworthiness, morality, and deservingness of a reward. The 5-year-olds preferred the loyal person across all questions; results for the 4-year-olds were considerably weaker but in the same direction. The second experiment investigated the direction of the effect in 5-year-olds. In this experiment, children answered questions about either a loyal individual, a disloyal individual, or a neutral individual. Children rated both the loyal and neutral individuals more positively than the disloyal individual across a number of measures. Thus, whereas disloyal behavior is evaluated unfavorably by children, loyal behavior is the expected norm. These results suggest that, at least from 5years of age, children understand that belonging to a group entails certain commitments. This marks an important step in their own ability to negotiate belonging and become trustworthy and reliable members of their social groups.

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology

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Antonia Misch
Postdoctoral Associate