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Chalik Explores How Children Understand Morality

Lisa ChalikDr. Lisa Chalik, is the director of the Developing Minds Lab at Stern College For Women. Her research focuses on the abstract theories that children build and rely upon as they navigate the social world. She explores how children learn to organize the people around them into social categories and how they make inferences about people on the basis of social category membership. She also studies the implications of social categorization for moral evaluation.

Dr. Chalik recently published a paper online in the journal Child Development, titled “Beliefs About Moral Obligation Structure Children’s Social Category‐Based Expectations.” In this study, she and her co-author, Dr. Yarrow Dunham of Yale University, investigated in what ways young children 4- to 5-years of age view social category members as morally obligated toward one another and how these obligations shape people’s social behavior, especially when it comes to applying these obligations to in-group members as opposed to out-group members.

“This research is important,” explains Dr. Chalik, “because it advances our understanding of how children incorporate beliefs about morality into their understanding of social groups. We found that when young children learn about new moral rules, they spontaneously assume that these rules are particularly important within social group boundaries. These sorts of beliefs can have powerful consequences for how we think about intergroup relations across development.”