Critically Evaluate The Role Of Three Different Cognitive


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Critically Evaluate The Role Of Three Different Cognitive

  1. 1. 1 Sarah Oliver Children’s Understanding of Discrimination Critically evaluate the role of three situational (e.g. PGDD) factors in the development of children’s understanding of discrimination Discrimination has been defined as ‘negative behaviours towards someone because of their group membership’ (p402 Brown, 2006). Two commonly held beliefs are that children who are not aware of stereotypes and biases would not develop them unless their parent’s had these beliefs (Katz, 2003). However, children have been found to show bias against out-group members (e.g. Tajfel, 1970) and to report high levels of discrimination at school (e.g. Fisher, Wallace & Fenton, 2000). Research has generally concentrated on why individual’s become prejudiced against others. However a growing amount of research has considered how minority groups perceive and respond to prejudice. Brown and Bigler’s (2005) developmental model of children’s perceptions of discrimination identifies a number of cognitive, situational and individual factors that are important in a child’s understanding of discrimination. This essay discusses the importance of three situational factors on children’s perceptions of discrimination: the role of target of comparison, knowledge of the evaluator and relevance to the stereotype. Stigmatised groups often report higher levels of discrimination to members of their group than to themselves, a concept known as the personal/group discrimination discrepancy (PGDD). This effect has been found across a variety of situations e.g. Crosby (1984) carried out a survey on the workplace, which highlighted women were being discriminated against. When asked a number of questions about their attitudes to work, it became apparent that women recognised women as a group were being discriminated against. However, virtually none of the women reported having been discriminated against 1
  2. 2. 2 Sarah Oliver Children’s Understanding of Discrimination personally. Brown and Bigler’s model (2006) assumed this affect would also be apparent in children’s perception of discrimination. They justify their assumption using the findings of two previous studies. Firstly, Brown and Bigler (2004) asked children to make judgments about characters in a story. They found children identified a biased act of a teacher as discrimination 72% of the time. In another study, Brown (2003) gave children negative feedback about their performance in an art competition. Only 7% of children attributed this to discrimination. This suggests children are more likely to identify an act as discrimination if the victim is another individual. Taylor et al. (1990) found support for the notion of PGDD but even though there was a significant difference in reported discrimination depending on the target, high levels of personal discrimination were also reported. The authors emphasised the importance of cognitive functioning and suggested an information processing model so that an individual uses an “additive” strategy when they add their own personal experience of discrimination to the experiences of others. Other research has provided support for the importance of cognitive processes such as heuristic-based explanation (Moghaddam, Stolkin & Hutcheson, 1997). If cognitions are important in PGDD, children may only act in this way if they have the cognitive ability. Further research in the area is required to determine the relevance of the target of discrimination to children’s perception of discrimination. Another situational factor that influences children’s perception of discrimination is the knowledge that the child’s given about the evaluator. For example if they are aware that the evaluator is a member of another group and are aware of the individual’s group status, the target is more likely to judge the evaluation as discriminatory (e.g. Dion & Earn, 1975). If a child is told a teacher has previous history of showing preferential treatment to boys than 2
  3. 3. 3 Sarah Oliver Children’s Understanding of Discrimination girls, a girl may be more likely to attribute a negative evaluation to discrimination. Brown and Bigler (2004) read elementary school children stories in which a teacher gave a more positive evaluation to a male student than a female student with an equal ability, or vice versa. They manipulated the contextual information so that the teacher either had a history of showing preferential treatment in the past. They found children were more likely to imply the teacher’s response was discriminatory when the manipulation suggested discrimination was likely, rather than ambiguous. However these results were affected by the gender and age of the target. This suggests cognitive ability and social group membership may influence the relevance of knowledge of the evaluator. Lastly, the relevance of a stereotype in certain situations may influence that target’s judgement of an event. Steele (1995) found priming the salience of a negative stereotype about African American’s intellectual ability lowered their test performance. Pittinsky, Shih & Ambady (1999) examined the importance of ethnic and gender stereotypes in the completion of numerical and verbal tests. When ethnic identity was important (when completing a maths test) participants generated more positive memories that were relevant to their ethnicity. Whereas when gender identity was important (when completing the verbal reasoning test) more gender relevant positive memories were described. There has been little research that has investigated stereotype threat and children’s perception of discrimination. Ambady et al. (2001) found activated gender stereotypes in quantitative ability affected girls ages 5-7 and 11-13, but not in the middle age rang (7-8). Whereas McKown & Winstein (2003) found stereotype threat influenced African American’s judgement in later childhood, when they were more aware of the relevant stereotypes. Finally, Muzzatti & Agnoli (2007) found stereotype threat only influenced girl’s 3
  4. 4. 4 Sarah Oliver Children’s Understanding of Discrimination performance in mathematics when they were 10 years or older. Although this evidence does highlight the importance of stereotype threat in young children’s reaction to stereotypes, it does highlight the importance of age. This may be because children’s knowledge of certain stereotypes doesn’t become pronounced until children’s knowledge of stereotypes becomes more advanced. Pittinsky et al (1999) highlighted the importance of multiple classification skill in determining this effect. Situational effects do seem to be important in children’s perception of discrimination. These include whether the target of comparison is another individual or the self, the knowledge that the target has of the evaluator and the relevance the stereotype has on the situation that the child is in also seems to have an affect. There has been some evidence that suggests these three factors are important in children’s understanding of perception but more research needs to be carried out to find out how much contribution each of these has, especially in regards to PGDD. The evidence also points to an interplay of cognitive, social and individual factors. For example children need an advanced knowledge of stereotypes and ability to categorise others. The ability to categorise people into multiple categories seems to an important variable. An integrated approach is needed to explain children’s perception of discrimination. 4
  5. 5. 5 Sarah Oliver Children’s Understanding of Discrimination References Ambady, N., Shih, M., Kim, A., & Pittinsky, T. L. (2001). Stereotype susceptibility in children: Effects of identity activation on quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 12, 385–390. Brown, C. S. ( 2003). Children's perceptions of discrimination: Antecedents and consequences. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Brown, C. S. (2006). Bias at school: Perceptions of racial/ethnic discrimination among Latino and African American children. Brown, C. S., & Bigler, R. S. (2004). Children’s perceptions of gender discrimination. Developmental Psychology, 40, 714–726. Brown, C. S.,& Bigler,R. S. (2005). Children’s perception of: A developmental model. Child Development, 76, 533–553. Crosby, F. (1984). The denial of personal discrimination. The American Behavioural Scientist, 27, 371-386 Dion, K. L., & Earn, B. M. ( 1975). The phenomenology of being a target of prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 944– 950. Fisher, C. B., Wallace, S. A., & Fenton, R. E. (2000). Discrimination distress durin adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolecents, 29, 679-695. Katz, P. A. (2003) Racists or Tolerant Multiculturalists? How to they begin. American Psychologist, 58, 897–909. Killen, M., Lee-Kim, J., McGlothlin, H., & Stangor, C. (2002). How children and adolescents evaluate gender and racial exclusion, Monographs of the Society for 5
  6. 6. 6 Sarah Oliver Children’s Understanding of Discrimination Research in Child Development (Vol. 67, No. 4). Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishers. .Moghaddam, F. M., Stolkin, A. J., & Hutcheson, L. S. ( 1997). A generalized personal/group discrepancy: Testing the domain specificity of a perceived higher effect of events on one's group than on oneself. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 743– 750. McKown, C., & Weinstein, R. S. (2003). The development and consequences of stereotype consciousness in middle childhood. Child Development, 74, 498–515. Muzzatti, B. & Agnoli, F. (2007) Gender and Mathematics: Attitudes and Stereotype Threat Susceptibility in Italian Children. Developmental Psychology, 43, 747-759. Pittinsky, T., Shih, M., & Ambady, N. ( 1999). Identity adaptiveness: Affect across multiple identities. Journal of Social Issues, 55, 503– 518. Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African-Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 797-811. Tajfel, H. (1970) Experiments in intergroup discrimination. Scientific American, 223, 96– 102. Taylor, D. M., Wright, S. C., Moghaddam F. M. & Lalonde, R. N. (1990) The personal/group discrimination discrepancy: perceiving my group, but not myself, to be the target of discrimination. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 16, 254 - 262 6