How Kids Catch Our Social Biases

Posted on January 23, 2017

Photo: flickr

Children are constantly looking up to their parents or teachers for guidance in understanding how the world is and how to approach it. A large part of their beliefs of right and wrong and way of thinking comes from their observations of others. Unfortunately, this includes social biases.

Research on four- and five-year-old children has shown that the kids are able to pick up on nonverbal cues so well that they almost immediately reflect the same style of preference they saw. They observed an adult give unfavorable preference to one person, which involve scowling or an unfriendly tone of voice, while the same person showed positive nonverbal signals to another. Consequently, the children reflected similar behaviors when they interacted with the two persons.

These results imply that kids do not only pay attention to what we say, but also how we say it. They are sensitive to the mannerism adults around them display. Furthermore, other research has indicated that these biases they pick up from observations are not just directed towards the same person, but also that person's friend. This means that learned bias can be extended to an entire group!

All these studies suggest that we as adults and educators should be more conscious of the way we represent ourselves in front of the youths. As children are shown to easily "catch" our biases, we could pay more attention to how we model our actions.


Source material from Scientific American

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