Infants begin to learn about race in first year

   May 3, 4:07 pm

Washington, May 3 (ANI): Although infants are born with equal abilities to tell apart people within multiple races, they are better at recognizing faces and emotional expressions of people within groups they interact with most by the age of 9 months, according to a new study.

Psychology researcher Lisa Scott and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that by 9 months, infants show a decline in their ability to tell apart two faces within another race and to accurately match emotional sounds with emotional expressions of different-race individuals.

This is the first investigation of this effect in infancy and supports other studies suggesting that emotion recognition is less accurate for other-race faces than own-race faces.

This research suggested that throughout the first year of life, babies are developing highly specialized perceptual abilities in response to important people in their environment, such as family members.

This focus of attention to familiar groups of people compared to unfamiliar groups is hypothesized to be the root of later difficulties some adults have in identifying and recognizing faces of other races.

This is similar to how babies learn language. Early in infancy babies do not know yet which sounds are meaningful in their native language, so they treat all sounds similarly. But as they learn the language spoken around them, their ability to tell apart sounds within other languages declines and their ability to differentiate sounds within their native language improves.

"In addition to providing information critical for understanding how infants learn about the surrounding environment, the results of this research may serve as a guide for early education and interventions designed to reduce later racial prejudice and stereotyping" Scott stated.

"These results suggest that biases in face recognition and perception begin in preverbal infants, well before concepts about race are formed. It is important for us to understand the nature of these biases in order to reduce or eliminate them," she added.

For this study, each infant came to the lab with a parent for a one-hour session that included showing infants pictures of faces and having them listen to sounds while their looking time and brain activity were recorded.

Forty-eight Caucasian infants with little to no previous experience with African-American or black individuals participated in this study.

Infants completed two tasks. The first was designed to assess their ability to tell the difference between two faces within their own race and two faces within another, unfamiliar, race. For the second task, a net of recording sensors was placed on the infant's head to record brain activity while they viewed own-race and other-race emotion faces (happy, sad) that either matched or did not match a corresponding emotion sound (laughing, crying).

Consistent with previous reports, 5-month-old infants were found to equally tell apart faces from both races, whereas 9-month-old infants were better at telling apart two faces within their own race, Scott and colleagues reported.

Further, measures of brain activity revealed differential neural processing of own-race compared to other-race emotional faces at 9 months. However, 5-month olds exhibited similar processing for both own- and other- race faces .

In addition, infants were found to shift their processing of face-related emotion information from neural regions in the front of the brain to neural regions in the back of the brain from 5 to 9 months of age. This shift in neural processing helps researchers understand how the brain develops in response to experience during the first year of life.

Scott's paper was singled out for special mention as the "Editor's Choice" article in the May issue of Developmental Science. (ANI)

Pulmonary hypertension's links with diabetes, cancer discovered Oct 31, 3:02 pm
Washington, Oct 31 (ANI): A team of scientists have discovered pulmonary hypertension's links with diabetes and cancer.
Full Story
Seizures, migraines produced by single gene mutation Oct 31, 2:14 pm
Washington, Oct 31 (ANI): In a new study, scientists have found that seizures and migraines may actually be linked as they could be produced by a single gene mutation.
Full Story
Today's kids could experience time travel, invisibility cloaks during lifetimes Oct 31, 1:35 pm
London, Oct 31 (ANI): A new study has predicted that some of the amazing phenomenons like time travel, invisibility cloaks and teleportation could be part of everyday life of today's kids by 2025.
Full Story
Newborn babies' weight governs risk for future diseases Oct 31, 1:35 pm
Washington, Oct 31 (ANI): A new study has shown a link between a baby's weight at the time of birth and the risk of diseases in the longer run.
Full Story
Comments

LATEST STORIES
TOP VIDEO STORIES
PHOTO GALLERY