April 14, 2011

Discriminating babies

PLoS ONE 6(4): e18621. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018621

Caucasian Infants Scan Own- and Other-Race Faces Differently

Andrea Wheeler et al.

Young infants are known to prefer own-race faces to other race faces and recognize own-race faces better than other-race faces. However, it is entirely unclear as to whether infants also attend to different parts of own- and other-race faces differently, which may provide an important clue as to how and why the own-race face recognition advantage emerges so early. The present study used eye tracking methodology to investigate whether 6- to 10-month-old Caucasian infants (N = 37) have differential scanning patterns for dynamically displayed own- and other-race faces. We found that even though infants spent a similar amount of time looking at own- and other-race faces, with increased age, infants increasingly looked longer at the eyes of own-race faces and less at the mouths of own-race faces. These findings suggest experience-based tuning of the infant's face processing system to optimally process own-race faces that are different in physiognomy from other-race faces. In addition, the present results, taken together with recent own- and other-race eye tracking findings with infants and adults, provide strong support for an enculturation hypothesis that East Asians and Westerners may be socialized to scan faces differently due to each culture's conventions regarding mutual gaze during interpersonal communication.

Link

17 comments:

  1. Im white. The mother of my daughter is black. When my daughter was little she was scared of all black people except her mother and her half sister. She always kept to white people. These days that have changed.

    www.keyoghettson.com

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  2. Is this a racialist blog? I ask that in all seriousness. Posting articles like this without comment is worth noting.

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  3. Define "racialist blog". I post a lot of article abstracts without comment, especially when there's not much to comment about or they're open access.

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  4. I'd say racialism is advocating the superiority of certain races over others. Actually, I think it's clear that this blog meets that minimal definition. But I get the impression it goes beyond that to an implicit advocacy of racial supremacy. Is that fair to say?

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  5. I'd say racialism is advocating the superiority of certain races over others. Actually, I think it's clear that this blog meets that minimal definition. But I get the impression it goes beyond that to an implicit advocacy of racial supremacy. Is that fair to say?

    How you can go from "Caucasian babes scan faces of different races differently" to "superiority of certain races over others" is difficult to follow.

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  6. The authors are not racist but they do naively fail to distinguish between race as biological difference between populations and race as a cultural construct. One could argue that by fostering this confusion they risk suggesting that racial discrimination is part of the natural order of things. Consistent with this, is the way the author's overlook the political aspect of racial discrimination.
    I prefer the formulation of Rodgers and Hammerstein in 'South Pacific'
    "You've got to be taught to hate and fear,
    You've got to be taught from year to year,
    It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
    You've got to be carefully taught.

    You've got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    You've got to be carefully taught.

    You've got to be taught before its too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You've got to be carefully taught!"

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  7. How is race as a cultural construct relevant to what infants tend to look at?

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  8. I'm curious about the non-Caucasian races used, and if / how they were distinguished. Consider from a simple biomechanical perspective, that Caucasian eyes are the highest contrast feature. Darker skin tones lessen the contrast ratio of dark pupils to the surrounding face. Similarly, the epicanthic folds on Asiatic faces mean that there is less eye area to face area, making it a smaller visual target.

    It is possible that these findings are nothing more or less than an artifact of those physiological characteristics.

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  9. The infants in the study experience biological differences in correlation with differences in cultural behavior. This gives the biological differences an added cultural significance.

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  10. ""You've got to be taught to hate and fear"

    I prefer the judeo-christian idea in wich humans are born as cruel creatures of pure evil and need to be taught goodness. Not the other way around.

    And taught again and again. Every day. Themselfs shall pray to god every day to give them the strnegh to imprision and master their inner evil.

    And that even then, the "goodness" and "civilisation" is a very thin coating. That falls of their skins in a second, if they meat an unusual situation and suddenly, they are the cruel beasts of evil again, worse than any beast of the jungle.

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  11. You've got to be taught to hate and fear

    Yes, and that teacher is called natural selection.

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  12. "Racialist" is code for white with an opinion.

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  13. No - it's called uncounscious selection. Mere lack of luck.
    In fact luck, as a human condition, never seem to have existed. Perhaps that challenge the fact that there seem to be some relict impact left in our language describing such a condition. The mere existance of the word, the idea and the common consept expressed as "luck" seem to have been an odd fling of the tounge that evolved into a permanent dream-state of mankind sometime before Greek antiquity. Lucklily we got the concept of God to explain it all - since "real luck" is only to be found in Heaven. Since the Darwinist took God away we're even robbed from the hope of ever to find that 'luck' back - and descriobe a general way of direction - that can make our children both realistic and happy - due to a general sense of purpose that may allow them to grow into lucky people.

    The ancestors to the great civilizations of the antique world obviously had the ability to create societies that were able to sustain their culture and economy in balance with the productivity of their lands and their neighbours. Completing their seasons and their monuments the seem to have expressed a number of celebrations and festivals during each year - to dwell on the good side of life and the luck of common progress and prosperity.

    When a black baby prefer black parents he is not a racist. Enjoying my own family and kids before others doesn't make me 'anti-social'. Bringing the race-supremacist ideologies of various religions into this forum is actually an attack on the scientific integrity of anyone studying the caucasian people - in terms of history, biology, etnology or antropology.

    That even the babies of the poor palefaced sods called Eurasieans behave racially just shows how deceptive and dangerous these Caucasian scientists can be - adressing the wellfare of their children - under a concept that includes "happy" and "lucky". Heresy!

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  14. I'm a scientist (not genetics though) in an interracial marriage and watched interesting behaviors emerge with my kids that did not seem entirely explained through exposure to a cultural hegemony.

    Why is any exploration of a possible biological underpinning to a cultural construct construed as racist? Is it because that gives some kind of exculpatory mechanism to racial discrimination, which if merely a cultural construct can be wiped out via education? Why are these issues not raised when exploring the wonderful differences between Khoisan and northern Bantu?

    I will sadly expect such issues to be raised again in all studies of genetic clusters pinpointing mutations of surface signalling proteins involved with neuronal migration that do manifest themselves as cultural differences.

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  15. @batman Given your defense on the assumption that the scientists are caucasian whose goal is the welfare of their own children, a vaguely constructed and worded response infused with dogma, I wouldn't attempt a witty putdown. You instead gives rather more credence to those concerned about some segment of the population conforming scientific results to their own dogmatic and anti-scientific views.

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  16. "The present study used eye tracking methodology to investigate whether 6- to 10-month-old Caucasian infants"

    So the study deals only with 'Caucasian' infants. And the abstract's introduction starts:

    "Young infants are known to prefer own-race faces to other race faces and recognize own-race faces better than other-race faces".

    wouldn't we expect that to be the case? After all the first face any infant came to recognise would usually be a member of its own race. So to introduce claims of racialism over the blog is completely meaningless.

    "When my daughter was little she was scared of all black people except her mother and her half sister".

    Most infants are scared of anyone they don't know.

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  17. If the daugther is anxious in general a unknown object or an unfamiliar, 'strange' looking person may trigger some anxiety - off the unknown.

    Children who did not learn distrust - on the other hand - normally react with curiosity when they see something new. You have to become accustomed to the social and cultural traits in general before you call something 'odd' or 'strange'. Moreover, to find the dark of the nigth - or a very darkskinned man - is dangerous per se, you have to be learning it, somehow...

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