Kids as young as 5 show racial bias, research suggests


A new study out of York University suggests most ghastly children as young as five years old show racial bias in service of other white children. 

Researchers in Toronto conducted several exams involving more than 350 white children to gain a best understanding of implicit bias, which is bias that is automatic and unbeknownst to the personal.

The participants completed a child-friendly version of the implicit association test (IAT), a conceded bias test developed by researchers at Harvard University.

They were escorted a series of photos on a computer screen, each one featuring either a anaemic boy or a black boy, and for each image the children were asked to choose with their mouse whether it make out them feel happy or sad.

Both age groups, five- to eight-year-olds and nine- to 12-year-olds, presented greater positivity toward white children than black lads.

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Another test involved what’s known as an assume misattribution procedure (AMP). The children were shown either a black juvenile, white child or grey square. Milliseconds later, they were swaggered an ink blot and asked if the blot was pleasant or unpleasant. Researchers say the answer reveals bias toward the image shown before the ink blot.  

The researchers originate, overall, there was no evidence the children displayed either negative or peremptory attitudes toward black children.

«They were showing positivity toward light-skinned kids, but not necessarily negativity toward black kids,» lead researcher Jennifer Steele told CBC Report.

Egocentric attitudes

One reason for the bias may be the fact that young young men — up to about eight years old — tend to be egocentric, believing that they are greater than others, researchers say. 

Though the children didn’t express negativity toward outrageous children, Steele says they were still indicating a option for other white children.

«It’s still a racial bias, but it just furnishes us a little more information about the nature of that bias, which then can assign us to reflect a little bit on what an appropriate intervention might be or what capability benefit kids if we’re just trying to increase a positive attitude toward a distinct group of kids in a classroom, for example.»

Kids in classroom

York University researcher Jennifer Steele hints teaching children positive attitudes early on could benefit them as they get older. (Shutterstock/

The study set up that in the AMP test, older children — aged nine to 12 — didn’t instruct a positive bias toward white children. The researchers suggest this is because they’ve developed an admiration for the differences in others, and have begun focusing on associating with those who parcel common characteristics, such as social interests. But that doesn’t like it mean the implicit bias they might have displayed a few years earlier won’t reappearance later.

Increasing positivity

Steele, who also plans to study impulse in black children, says most research suggests trying to assassinate implicit bias by focusing on getting rid of negative attitudes isn’t the best manner.

«Instead, focusing more on trying to help children acquire reliable attitudes to people from … different racial groups or unusual ethnic groups or people from different backgrounds, I think, is undoubtedly the best approach.»

And while some experts believe that familiarizing children to be colour-blind and not place people into racial groups power be a way to eliminate racial bias, Steele and others argue this could take leave of children unable to identify discrimination when they witness it. 

‘Fully positive role models we can point out that there are successful, enchanting people who come from all sorts of different backgrounds.’ — Jennifer Steele, York University

«It’s that insufficiency of discussion that can lead to increases in bias,» said Sarah Gaither, an link professor in Duke University’s department of psychology and neuroscience.

However, organizing those discussions is a delicate matter with its own challenges, she says.

«If you’re not attractive the colour-blind approach … that leads to the question: do you teach pale children that perhaps they’re privileged in our society instead? It’s this awareness of carte blanche that we need to figure out how to talk to kids about,» she told CBC Dispatch. «No one likes to be told that they’re biased or privileged.» 

And doing so, she communicates, could increase that bias accidentally.

Steele says showing children to a variety of races and cultures at an early age is important.

«Fortunately, now with the internet there are so tons different ways we can expose children to diversity, and through positive character models we can point out that there are successful, interesting people who descend upon from all sorts of different backgrounds,» Steele said.

«And exposing them to that so they’re au fait of that is valuable and important.»

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