Society for Psychological Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Narges Afshordi (Univeristy of Minnesota)
Felix Warneken (University of Michigan)
From an early age, children start to understand status processes in their social environments. Findings of cognitive sciences suggest that the ability to discern hierarchical relationships, as well as coercive and non-coercive processes that give rise to them, is to an extent an evolved cognitive capacity available to all humans. This article investigates in detail how children develop an understanding of dominance-based and prestige-based status processes; how it is shaped by culturally specific moral frames; and how prestige and dominance interact with processes of ascribed status. A comparison of children in London, UK, and Nanjing, China, brings together anthropological and psychological approaches, and reveals how the central values mediating status and conflict, respect in London and yielding in China, lead to particular expectations about the behavior of dominant and prestigious individuals.
On the basis of ethnographic comparison, we designed experimental tasks to compare children’s understanding of dominance and prestige in China and the UK (Kajanus, Afshordi, Warneken, in press). We tested adults and two age groups of children (5-7 years, and 9-11 years, n=40 for each age in each country). Experiment 1 examined the age at which children begin to distinguish dominance and prestige; and Experiment 2 explored how cultural models of status influence children’s inferences about the outcome of conflicts between high- and low-status parties. Overall, the results of the experiments provide strong evidence for a culturally-influenced aspect of hierarchical relationship understanding across two populations.