UD professor’s research shows babies distinguish between races
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 00:09
Babies as young as three months old can distinguish between different races and gender, according to research conducted by psychology professor Paul Quinn. This study has brought up questions of racism and whether it is a learned attribute in human nature.
Quinn declined to comment on his research.
Alumna Rachelle Brunn, a sociology professor at Virginia Tech, said she does not believe this study indicates racism is learned early on.
“It shows that, while babies can distinguish or classify races, it does not mean that people are racist,” Brunn said. “That comes with prejudiced stereotyping, not just categorizing races.”
Brunn, whose research specializes in race, class and gender, said she believes a three-month-old baby’s ability to differentiate between races and gender is based off of familiarity. She said this indicates babies have the ability to recognize facial characteristics alone.
According to Brunn, many people think Americans are overly concerned with race and gender. She said the United States has a long history of racial oppression and the people are still dealing with its affects. People are hardwired to classify humans and objects to make sense of their lives, Brunn said.
“Seeing someone and recognizing categories aren’t necessarily racism,” Brunn said. “It’s adding qualities to people of those categories that is racist and harmful. Positive and negative stereotypes are equally problematic.”
Graduate student Marvin Whitaker said he believes racism is a learned characteristic. While he said he does not doubt babies can distinguish between races and gender, he does not think this necessarily leads to racist or sexist feelings.
“Racism is taught through family, and stereotypes can develop,” Whitaker said. “Distinguishing between races does not indicate racism. Our country is shallow; we have nothing better to talk about. The media is always bringing [racism] up. We’re obsessed with how people are different.”
Sophomore Kasey Crossman said she believes racism can be altered throughout a person’s lifetime.
According to Crossman, being taught that racism is wrong will do nothing to affect how a person thinks. However, she believes a person’s experiences may eventually change their views.
“At a young age we learn from our parents, we follow their lead, and on top of that, they control whom we interact with,” Crossman said. “As we come more into ourselves, it is possible to grow out of our prejudices.”
Junior Zach Lopatin said a person’s age and the society they live in are both factors to consider when talking about racism or sexism.
“Society rules the roles that genders have and the same with race also,” Lopatin said.