Children’s Individual Differences in Executive Function and Theory of Mind in Relation to Prejudice Toward Social Minorities
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Executive functionTheory of mindPrejudicesRegulationCognitive development
Hoyo Á, Rueda MR and Rodríguez-Bailón R (2019) Children’s Individual Differences in Executive Function and Theory of Mind in Relation to Prejudice Toward Social Minorities. Front. Psychol. 10:2293.
SponsorshipResearch reported in this article was supported by grants from the Spanish Agency of Research awarded to MR (ref. PSI2014-55833-P) and RR-B (ref. PSI2016-78839).
Executive function (EF) and theory of mind (ToM) are key cognitive skills for socioemotional adjustment. Executive function develops considerably between 3 and 7 years of age, and fosters the development of social cognition skills such as ToM. Studies with adults have shown a link between EF and prejudice, as well as between empathy and prejudice. Moreover, the relationship between EF, cognitive and affective ToM and prejudice has barely been studied in children. In this study, we aimed at examining the relationship between individual differences in EF, cognitive and affective ToM and prejudice toward the Romany ethnic minority. We expected a positive association between EF and ToM skills, and a negative association between EF and prejudice. We also predicted a negative association between ToM and prejudice. A total of 86 preschool (5–6 years old, N = 43) and third-grade (8–9 years old, N = 43) children participated in the study. Results showed a negative relationship between EF and prejudice, as well as between affective ToM and prejudice, after controlling for intelligence. Moreover, we found that EF significantly predicted prejudice. Exploratory correlational analyses suggested age-related differences in the EF skills underlying prejudice regulation. These findings suggest a distinctive contribution of cognitive and affective components of ToM to prejudice, and highlight the central role of EF in social behavior regulation.