Physical Characteristics as Determinants of Trait Attribution and Forgiveness

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William Wagner

Advisor Department



Psychologists who have studied the development of racial attitudes have offered support for the sociocognitive theory of Aboud (1988). For example, children's reports of own-group preferences have been found to decline around age 7 (Doyle & Aboud, 1995), which has been associated with the attainment of conservation skills and increased cognitive flexibility in these children. The present study sought to explore how participants' racial attitudes were related to their attribution of traits to characters in a story. In addition, the relationship between racial attitudes and children's willingness to forgive an antagonist was explored. Forty-seven Caucasian participants between the ages of 7 and 10 years participated in this study. All were found to score predominately in the nonstereotyped category of the modified Preschool Racial Attitude Measure-II (PRAM-II) (Bigler & Liben, 1993). Children were asked to rate a narrative describing an interaction between two children, one an antagonist and the other a victim in a playground incident. Participants were systematically assigned to one of two experimental conditions. In one condition, the antagonist was Caucasian and the victim was African American. In the other, the antagonist was African American and the victim was Caucasian. Children then completed the vignette PRAM-II and the Enright Forgiveness Inventory for Children-Revised (EFIC-R). Results revealed no significant differences between the two experimental conditions on either measure. Based on the results of previous studies (Bigler & Liben, 1993; Doyle, Beaudet, & Aboud, 1988), greater variability was anticipated in the children's responses on the modified PRAM-II. Possible reasons (e.g., geographical differences, developmental age, transparency of the measure) are provided to account for the limited range of scores obtained in the present study. Accordingly, recommendations are given for future research on the development of racial attitudes in children.