UCLA Research Shows Infants Are Aware of Ethnic Differences of People They See

A study by psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles finds that infants less than a year old distinguish racial and ethnic differences in the human faces they see. Researchers showed a group of Hispanic and non-Hispanic White infants two photographs of adult women on a computer screen. The women were either Black, White, or Latina. (See images used in the study below.) Using technology that tracks eye movements, the researchers were able to measure which photograph the infants were looking at and for how long.

The results showed that Hispanic and White infants looked longer at Black faces than either White or Latina faces. Scott Johnson, a professor of psychology at UCLA and co-author of the study, said that “the babies showed such consistent patterns that it appears that they are aware, at some level, of ethnic differences.”

Professor Johnson said the study should not be interpreted to indicate prejudice or stereotypes. “I don’t think this tells us about the origins of prejudices and stereotypes,” Dr. Johnson said.

The student, “Infant Attention to Same- and Other-Race Faces,” was published on the website of the journal Cognition. It may be accessed here.

Images shown to infants in the UCLA study: Black (top row), Latina (middle row), White (bottom row).

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