You Don’t Need to Talk to Throw a Ball! Children’s Inclusion of Language-Outgroup Members in Behavioral and Hypothetical Scenarios

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To investigate children’s inclusion of language-outgroup members, English-speaking children (8–9 years and 10–11 years of age, N = 57) made inclusion decisions while playing a simulated ball-tossing game, Cyberball, and while evaluating hypothetical scenarios involving language-outgroup members who wanted to play with their group. In the Cyberball game, the group norm was to exclude non-English-speaking peers, and participant tosses to a language-outgroup member (i.e., Spanish, Chinese, or Arabic speaking) were coded as a measure of behavioral inclusion. In the hypothetical scenarios, participants made prescriptive and descriptive judgments about their expectations regarding the inclusion of a language-outgroup member. They also evaluated their own and their group’s inclusion likelihood. Results revealed that participants’ evaluations of how acceptable exclusion was predicted their behavioral inclusion in the Cyberball game. Further, participants were more likely to think that the language-outgroup member should be included and less likely to think that the outgroup member would be included. They also differentiated between their own and their group’s likelihood of including a language-outgroup member and reasoned about this decision by focusing on group functioning and language. In addition, there were age-related differences, with participants demonstrating greater inclusivity with age. The findings suggest the complexity of children’s social cognition and the importance of providing them with a rich array of opportunities to play with language-outgroup members.

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