Learning (Not) to Talk About Race: When Older Children Underperform in Social Categorization

Department of Psychology, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA.
Developmental Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.21). 10/2008; 44(5):1513-8. DOI: 10.1037/a0012835
Source: PubMed


The present research identifies an anomaly in sociocognitive development, whereby younger children (8 and 9 years) outperform their older counterparts (10 and 11 years) in a basic categorization task in which the acknowledgment of racial difference facilitates performance. Though older children exhibit superior performance on a race-neutral version of the task, their tendency to avoid acknowledging race hinders objective success when race is a relevant category. That these findings emerge in late childhood, in a pattern counter to the normal developmental trajectory of increased cognitive expertise in categorization, suggests that this anomaly indicates the onset of a critical transition in human social development.

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    • "A recent review found that, while colorblind and multicultural ideologies variously impact on intergroup relations depending on a range of contextual and individual factors, multicultural ideology is more likely to result in equitable outcomes due to the recognition of difference (Sasaki & Vorauer, 2013). For example, predominantly White elementary school children aged 10e11 years old were less likely to identify instances of racial difference after exposure to color-blind ideology compared to younger children aged 8e9 years old (Apfelbaum, Pauker, et al., 2008). Children that did not acknowledge racial differences, which tended to be older children, were also more likely to endorse stereotypes. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study examines egalitarianism as an ethnic-racial socialization message used by teachers with 8–12 year old children in four socio-demographically diverse elementary schools in Melbourne, Australia. The three main types of egalitarian messages identified are i) procedural-justice color-blindness, ii) distributive-justice color-blindness and iii) colormuteness, and each is explored in relation to how teachers talk to children about racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, and racism. We conclude that teacher confidence and capability, and to a lesser degree, school context, influenced the types of egalitarian messages used about diversity and the extent to which teachers had explicit and critical discussions about racism.
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    • "This heightened amygdala response to AA faces may reflect learned cultural knowledge, such as implicit and explicit stereotypes. Across development, youth internalize cultural biases and norms in their environment (Apfelbaum et al., 2008). Additionally, this response may reflect the increasing salience of race that occurs during adolescence that is not associated with bias, such as adolescentsʼ ethnic identity explorations. "
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroimaging research in adults has consistently found that differential perception of race is associated with increased amygdala activity. We hypothesized that such neural biases unlikely reflect innate processes but instead emerge over development. In the current study, we used fMRI to examine the neurodevelopmental trajectory of the amygdala in response to race across childhood and adolescence ranging from 4 to 16 years. Thirty-two youths viewed African American and European American faces during a functional brain scan. Results suggest that differential amygdala response to African American faces does not emerge until adolescence, reflecting the increasing salience of race across development. In addition, greater peer diversity was associated with attenuated amygdala response to African American faces, suggesting that intergroup racial contact may reduce the salience of race.
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    • "Equally essential to understanding racial stereotype development is determining what factors facilitate the emergence of these stereotypes. The few studies that have explored children's racial stereotypes, as defined before, have either concentrated on the behavioral consequences of stereotype awareness (Ambady, Shih, Kim, & Pittinsky, 2001; Apfelbaum, Pauker, Ambady, Sommers, & Norton, 2008; McKown & Weinstein, 2003) or the content of stereotypes pertaining to a few specific groups (Bar-Tal, 1996; Bigler, Averhart, & Liben, 2003; Corenblum, 2003). Far less attention has been devoted to the social and cognitive variables associated with racial stereotype development. "
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