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People's racial bias begins as babies

Researchers say these findings are also important because they offer a new perspective on the cause of race-based bias.

Image: Shutterstock/bikeriderlondon

BABIES AS YOUNG as six months show racial bias, two new studies show.

The studies carried out at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto and their collaborators from the US, UK, France and China show the bias forms earlier than thought.

In the first study, “Older but not younger infants associate own-race faces with happy music and other-race faces with sad music,” published in the journal Developmental Science, results showed that after six months of age, infants begin to associate own-race faces with happy music and other-race faces with sad music.

In the second study, “Infants rely more on gaze cues from own-race than other-race adults for learning under uncertainty,” published in Child Development, researchers found that six- to eight-month-old infants were more inclined to learn information from an adult of his or her own race than from an adult of a different race.

In both studies, infants less than six months of age were not found to show such biases.

“The findings of these studies are significant for many reasons,” said Dr. Kang Lee, professor at OISE’s Jackman Institute of Child Study, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair and lead author of the studies.

The results show that race-based bias already exists around the second half of a child’s first year. This challenges the popular view that race-based bias first emerges only during the preschool years.

Researchers say these findings are also important because they offer a new perspective on the cause of race-based bias.

Lee continued to explain that overall, the results of these studies are critically important given the issues of wide-spread racial bias and racism around the world.

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