It's all about perspective

Williams syndrome children show no racial stereotypes or social fear | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine.

So we find ourselves another study claiming that, essentially, racial stereotyping is natural and genetic. Only with genetic disorders can we truly get past these natural urges.

What a crock. This study is based on the “Preschool Racial Attitude Measure (PRAM-II), which is designed to tease out traces of gender or racial biases in young children.” It does this by showing young children a picture of two people. These are made different by color, gender, or both. The child is then told a story about the two pictures and asked to point out the person they feel the story is more likely about. Bias is determined by the how often the child points to the gender-same or ethnic-same people when the story uses positive adjectives versus when the child points to gender-different or ethnic-different people when the story uses negative adjectives.

This measurement is faulty for a couple of reasons.

1: The children are only shown two choices so there is bias built in to the measurement. Add a third choice for “neither” and a fourth choice for “feel equally about both” and the test might actually start measuring something.

2: While the test is measuring prejudice, it is not measuring stereotype. A prejudice is a preconceived judgment or opinion. Since the test uses positive and negative adjectives as a measurement tool, you are asking the children to apply a positive or negative judgment to the pictures. Stereotyping, on the other hand, would be measured by the children’s willingness to classify people without those value judgments. Now then, the real question becomes, “are these children assessing values because they feel one gender/race is superior to the other, or because they are simply more comfortable with one over the other?”

So what then does this study show? Not much really. It is fascinating in that it attempts to look at the genetic foundations of prejudice and may even be applicable to group-think studies. I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for the finished paper and will likely be doing a full critique of it.

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