Preference for high status predicts implicit outgroup bias among children from low-status groups

Anna Kaisa Newheiser, Yarrow Dunham, Anna Merrill, Leah Hoosain, Kristina R. Olson

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78 Scopus citations


Whereas members of high-status racial groups show ingroup preference when attitudes are measured implicitly, members of low-status racial groups-both adults and children-typically show no bias, potentially reflecting awareness of the ingroup's low status. We hypothesized that when status differences are especially pronounced, children from low-status groups would show an implicit outgroup bias, the strength of which might relate to attitudes toward status. We tested these predictions among 6-to 11-year-old Black and Coloured (i.e., multiracial) children from South Africa, a country marked by extreme status differentials among racial groups. As a measure of implicit intergroup bias, children (N = 78) completed an Implicit Association Test (IAT), a speeded categorization task that assesses the relative strength of association between 2 target groups (in the present study, either Whites vs. Blacks or Whites vs. Coloureds) and positive vs. negative evaluation. Children also completed explicit (i.e., self-report) measures of attitudes toward racial groups as well as toward rich and poor people (a measure of attitudes toward status). Both groups of children showed an implicit outgroup-favoring (i.e., pro-White) bias, suggesting that children were sensitive to the extent of status differences. The only instance in which implicit pro-White bias did not emerge involved Black children's evaluations of Whites vs. Coloureds, both higher-status outgroups. Explicit preference for high status predicted implicit pro-White bias, particularly when the IAT contrasted 2 outgroups. The impact of status on the development of implicit and explicit intergroup bias is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1081-1090
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


  • Implicit association test
  • Implicit attitudes
  • Inequality
  • Intergroup bias
  • Social status


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