Group biases based on broad category membership appear early in human development. However, like many other primates humans inhabit social worlds also characterised by small groups of social coalitions which are not demarcated by visible signs or social markers. A critical cognitive challenge for a young child is thus how to extract information concerning coalition structure when coalitions are dynamic and may lack stable and outwardly visible cues to membership. Therefore, the ability to decode behavioural cues of affiliations present in everyday social interactions between individuals would have conferred powerful selective advantages during our evolution. This would suggest that such an ability may emerge early in life, however, little research has investigated the developmental origins of such processing. The present paper will review recent empirical research which indicates that in the first 2 years of life infants achieve a host of social-cognitive abilities that make them well adapted to processing coalition-affiliations of others. We suggest that such an approach can be applied to better understand the origins of intergroup attitudes and biases. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
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