Seven studies in our laboratory focused on the acquisition by preschoolers of different aspects of the psychological intergroup repertoire relating to the self-referent group (“Jews” and “Israelis”) and the rival group (“Arabs). We were interested in the acquisition of words, concepts, images, and ethnic and national identity. Beyond acquisition, we examined the content of stereotypes, attitudes, attributed intentions to in- and outgroup, environmental influences on stereotypes and attitudes, the sources of information this age group identifies, and their tendency for generalizing evaluations regarding the rival group or regarding strangers.
To unveil the process of acquisition, we started to interview children at the earliest possible age, the age of 2 years. All of the participants in our studies had sufficient verbal skills to participate in structured interviews enabling the tracing of lexical, conceptual, and imagery development. Some interviews included direct questions, and others related to drawings, photographs, or illustrated stories. Although we recognize the shortcomings of interviewing young children, we believe that they represent the best source for information regarding the social vocabulary and verbal or imaginary concepts that children have in their repertoire. However, adding implicit techniques, less dependent on verbal expression, we learned about different aspects of the social knowledge Jewish Israeli children acquire at an early age. The assessment techniques we utilized related to in- and outgroup members separately; however, most of them confounded positivity-negativity.