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Seeing Change

Young Children Can Unlearn Racial Stereotyping

New research by Paul Quinn, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware, and his collaborators across the globe, have found a simple exercise that can undo the unconscious racial biases that may begin to develop as early as infancy.

Quinn learned that 3-month-olds begin showing a visual preference for the same race they see most often in their daily lives. By 9 months, infants not only distinguish racial categories, but also become less able to tell different individuals apart if they are members of a less-familiar race.

In the experiment, the scientists morphed together photos of African and Asian faces to create ambiguous images that looked equally African and Asian. As a result, Quinn reports, “At 9 months, they didn’t respond to the differences between the African and Asian categories, but instead they had two less discriminatory broad categories; ‘own race’ and ‘other race’. We think it might be a precursor to an initial ‘in group/out group’ differentiation and suggest that perceptual and social processing of faces may overlap, even in infants.”


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