Instructed, but not experienced, stimulus pairings shift implicit attitudes in 7- to 11-year-olds

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Description: Adult-like mean levels in implicit social attitudes are apparent from the earliest ages testable. However, such cross-sectional invariance may obscure meaningful changes in social cognitive development, including mechanisms of implicit attitude acquisition. This project investigated developmental change in the acquisition of novel implicit attitudes by comparing the separate and joint effects of two learning modalities: evaluative statements (ES; purely verbal information about upcoming stimulus pairings) and repeated evaluative pairings (REP; exposure to pairings of category members with valenced images). Children (N = 242, Mage = 9 years) and adults (N = 2,198, Mage = 37 years) were equally proficient at forming implicit attitudes from ES and ES + REP; REP alone produced change in adults but not in children. These findings demonstrate the early-emerging power of verbal instructions to influence implicit attitudes and suggest that purportedly low-level learning from stimulus pairings requires later-developing inferential capacities about valence and category membership.

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