Essentialist thinking predicts decrements in children's memory for racially ambiguous faces.
Past research shows that adults often display poor memory for racially ambiguous and racial outgroup faces, with both face types remembered worse than own-race faces. In the present study, the authors examined whether children also show this pattern of results. They also examined whether emerging essentialist thinking about race predicts children's memory for faces. Seventy-four White children (ages 4-9 years) completed a face-memory task comprising White, Black, and racially ambiguous Black-White faces. Essentialist thinking about race was also assessed (i.e., thinking of race as immutable and biologically based). White children who used essentialist thinking showed the same bias as White adults: They remembered White faces significantly better than they remembered ambiguous and Black faces. However, children who did not use essentialist thinking remembered both White and racially ambiguous faces significantly better than they remembered Black faces. This finding suggests a specific shift in racial thinking wherein the boundaries between racial groups become more discrete, highlighting the importance of how race is conceptualized in judgments of racially ambiguous individuals.
Gaither, SE; Schultz, JR; Pauker, K; Sommers, SR; Maddox, KB; Ambady, N
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