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What children want to know about in‐ and out‐groups, and how knowledge affects their intergroup attitudes

Abstract One of the key factors contributing to the development of negative attitudes toward out‐groups is lack of knowledge about them. The present study investigated what type of information 3‐ to 4‐ and 5‐ to 6‐ year‐old Jewish Israeli children (N = 82) are interested in acquiring about unfamiliar in‐ and out‐group individuals, and how providing children with the requested information affects their intergroup attitudes. Children were shown pictures of individuals from three groups—an in‐group (“Jews”), a “conflict” out‐group (“Arabs”), and a “neutral” out‐group (“Scots”)—and were asked what they would like to know about them. The experimenter responded by either answering all of children's questions, half of the questions, or none. Children's attitudes toward the groups were also assessed. It was found that children asked the most questions in regard to conflict out‐group individuals. Moreover, the older age group asked more questions regarding the psychological characteristics, and fewer questions regarding the social identity, of the conflict out‐group than of the other two groups. Finally, full provision of information improved attitudes toward the groups, especially among 3‐ to 4‐year olds, and especially regarding the conflict out‐group. These findings have implications for understanding the sources of intergroup biases, and for developing interventions to reduce them.

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