Daily Mail (London), April 16, 2014
Toddlers show racial bias when picking playmates, a study reveals.
They also take account of how fairly others behave.
Researchers tested the reaction of white 15-month-olds as toys were distributed.
Two white adults divided the toys, one equally and the other unequally.
Seventy per cent of the toddlers chose to play with the researcher who distributed the toys fairly.
But in a second test, when one researcher favoured a white recipient over an Asian one, they picked the ‘fair’ researcher less often, the journal Frontiers in Psychology reports.
And the babies are more likely to help those who share the same ethnicity, which is known as in-group bias when people favour those with the same characteristics as oneself.
The University of Washington team first noticed the phenomenon when the infants began playing favourites with the researchers during a previous experiment.
Professor Jessica Sommerville said: ‘At the time, about half of the research assistants in my lab were Asian-American and the other half were Caucasian, and most of the babies in our experiments are Caucasian.
‘We know that by preschool, children show in-group bias concerning race, but results in infants have been mixed.
‘It’s surprising to see these pro-social traits of valuing fairness so early on, but at the same time, we’re also seeing that babies have self-motivated concerns too.’
The study revealed when it came to picking a playmate, the babies seemed more tolerant of unfairness when the white recipient benefited from it.
They picked the fair experimenter less often when the unfair experimenter gave more toys to the white recipient rather than the Asian one.
The researchers say this implies that babies can take into account both race and social history when deciding which person would make a better playmate.
Professor Jessica Sommerville of the University of Washington said: ‘If all babies care about is fairness, then they would always pick the fair distributor, but we’re also seeing that they’re interested in consequences for their own group members.’