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Study: Babies exposed to just one racial group can develop racial 'bias'

Multi-American's sister blog DCentric at WAMU in Washington, D.C. shared a story today that's worth highlighting here: A piece in Good magazine about a University of Massachusetts study which suggests that infants confined to being around a single racial group can develop trouble telling apart people from other racial groups, and be less able to read their emotions.

Good's lifestyle editor Amanda Hess writes that "these early developmental deficiencies could contribute to some of the most pervasive racist stereotypes among adults - the idea that people of other races 'all look alike.' " That, or a perception that people of other races are "emotionally deficient in some way - dumb or angry or perpetually happy." From the story:

In what must have been an awkward screening process, researchers recruited 48 white infants with "little to no previous experience" with black people. They presented the white babies with two simple tasks. One activity measured how well the infants could "tell the difference between two faces within their own race and two faces within another, unfamiliar, race." The second tested the babies' ability to read the facial expressions of white and non-white faces.

Five-month-old white infants were equally skilled at differentiating white faces from non-white ones, as well as interpreting the emotions of white and non-white people. But by the time they reached 9 months, the babies had grown more adept at telling the difference between individuals within their own race. The older white infants were better at reading the emotions of white people, too.

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