Social categorization is an early emerging and robust component of social cognition, yet the role that social categories play in children’s understanding of the social world has remained unclear. The present studies examined children’s explanations of social behavior to provide a window into their intuitive theories of how social categories constrain human action. Children systematically referenced category memberships and social relationships as causal-explanatory factors for specific types of social interactions: harm among members of different categories more than harm among members of the same category. In contrast, they systematically referred to agents’ mental states to explain the reverse patterns of behaviors: harm among members of the same category more than harm among members of different categories. These data suggest that children view social category memberships as playing a causal-explanatory role in constraining social interactions.
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