Preschoolers negatively evaluate social excluders but do not always dis-prefer them
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Social exclusion is harmful and leads to negative consequences in the cognitive and social domains (Wesselman & Williams, 2013). Children use strategies to alleviate the negative effects of social exclusions. One of these strategies is to behave in ways that facilitate social connection. For instance, after observing social exclusion young children sit closer to others, remember more social events, and imitate others more accurately (Marinovic et al., 2017; Marinovic & Trauble, 2018; Watson-Jones et al., 2014), tend to remember more social events, and imitate others. The current study investigated cognitive processes that may underlie children’s choices of whom to interact with after exclusion. Specifically, we examined whether 3- to 6- year old children who observed third-party social exclusion detected social exclusion, evaluated excluders negatively, and if watching exclusion influenced their play partner choices. Overall, we found that across age groups, all children detected social exclusion after it occurred (67 of 69, p< 0.01) but did not detect exclusion when it did not occur (2 of 69, p< 0.01). Children also evaluated social excluders more negatively than social includers (b= -0.06, t(67)= 3.11, p= 0.003). With age, children evaluated social excluders more negatively, but children across ages evaluated includers positively. Only 5- and 6-year-olds preferred to play with includers more than excluders. 3- and 4-year-olds did not show a preference for either character. These findings indicated that both younger and older children can detect exclusion and evaluate excluders, but only older children prefer to play with includers over excluders. Future work should examine why younger children do not show similar preferences.