Study of the Development of Implicit Social Cognition

Cari Gillen-O’Neel, M.A., and Dr. Andrew J. Fuligni from the Department of Developmental Psychology at UCLA will be conducting a research project called the Study of the Development of Implicit Social Cognition. The goal of this project is to learn about children’s unconscious (i.e., implicit) associations between social groups (e.g., gender or ethnic groups) and certain traits. An example of an implicit association is as follows: even though many of us believe that boys and girls are equally good at school, since we are constantly exposed to societal stereotypes (e.g., media portrayals of boys and girls), some of us unconsciously associate boys with academic success more so than we unconsciously associate girls with academic success. One way to assess implicit associations is with a reaction time measure. Previous research with adults, for example, suggests that when asked to quickly press a button every time they see a word related to school success (e.g., “smart”), many people are slightly faster if they have just seen a picture of a boy and slightly slower if they have just seen a picture of a girl. These differences in reaction time seem to occur despite the fact that adults truly believe that boys and girls are equally good at school. Thus, implicit associations seem to come from being immersed in our particular society, and they are largely beyond our control. The focus of this study is to examine the age at which children begin to develop implicit associations about people of different genders and ethnicities. For this study, we are inviting all children in grades 2 through 6 to participate. Participating children will play a 40-minute computer game in which they will see pictures (e.g., flowers, insects, and faces of boys and girls from different ethnic backgrounds) that they will try to remember, and they will see words that they will be asked to sort as quickly as possible. Specifically, children will be asked to sort the following words: good, friend, love, nice, bad, enemy, hate,and mean as “good” or “bad,” smart, quick, hard-working, neat, dumb, slow, lazy, and sloppy as “good for school” or “bad for school,” and I, me, my, myself, their, them, themselves, and they as “me” or “not me.” This computer game will be completed independently in a private setting (e.g., the CONNECT research office). As parents have already signed the UCLA Lab School blanket consent form, they are not required to sign any additional forms at this time. Later, we will be sending home a brief and optional parent questionnaire (one page asking about children’s backgrounds). Any questions about this study should be directed to Cari Gillen-O’Neel, M.A. ( or 424-256-0280) or to Dr. Andrew J. Fuligni ( or 310-794-6033).