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The First Glimmers Of Racial Prejudice

crying babyThree month-old babies prefer own race faces.

Martin Luther King said you should not judge someone by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character but according to new research you may have to unlearn years of mental habits to achieve this.

New studies by the University of Sheffield, U.K. and Tel-Aviv University, Israel have found that by the age of three months many babies start to prefer faces of people from their own race to those of another race. Psychologists say this early favouritism may represent the first glimmers of racial prejudice.

On the bright side, researchers also found that babies raised with frequent exposure to people of other races don’t develop this early bias. This discovery may help guide future research on how to counter racism, they suggested.

'Early preferences for own-race faces may contribute to race-related biases later in life,' psychologists wrote in a paper on a study published in the February issue of the research journal Psychological Science. Typically, 'by the age of four to six years, children already display racial stereotyping and prejudice in a variety of contexts.'

Many researchers in recent years have been interested in how racial prejudice develops, and even whether it might have evolutionary functions. Some have suggested prejudice may actually have been useful for primitive humans, by motivating them to protect their tribes from ill-intentioned strangers. 'It was adaptive for our ancestors to be attuned to those outside the group who posed threats,' said Arizona State University social psychologist Steven Neuberg last year. Unfortunately, he added, 'prejudice can also be turned against people who pose no threat.'

Today, mainstream Western societies tend to consider prejudice an unmitigated evil, a cause of social strife, injustice, and some studies have found health problems, possibly caused by the continual stress of living on racism’s receiving end.

However racism and prejudice still remains deeply embedded in the institutions and communities of the west though few admit it.

Research such as the baby study could help scientists understand ways to reduce racism, a key goal for future research would be to demark 'the critical period during which early-formed preferences for own-race faces may be altered by exposure to other-race faces.'

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