Bias Starts as Early as Preschool, but Can Be Unlearned

According to the findings of a recent study, bias is a common trait in children from an early age. Teachers have several options for overcoming this bias and creating a welcoming environment in their classes.

All of us are familiar with the fact that teenagers and adults can exhibit social prejudice against people from other cultures. What about children under the age of five? Are they prejudiced against their peers because of their identity groups? Researchers at Northwestern University sought to gain a better understanding of the problem.

through a new study that involved 4- and 5-year-olds.

The researchers used an implicit bias test, which is commonly administered to adults, to conduct their investigation. They discovered that children rated black boys’ images less favorably than images of white girls and boys, with black girls in the middle of the spectrum of ratings.

In the words of Danielle Perszyk (a psychology professor at Northwestern University) and her colleagues, young children can be “astute observers” of their social environment, which can have negative consequences for their perceptions of race and gender. Both black and white children were found to have a strong and consistent pro-white bias, which was observed across all groups.

To determine whether preschoolers are aware of or demonstrate biases based on race and gender, the researchers conducted two experiments. In this study, the researchers looked at four groups of young children’s implicit and explicit prejudices: black men and black women, white men and white women, and white men and white women.

In the first experiment, the children were divided into two groups and each group was shown four images. A prime image has the potential to elicit a positive or negative response from the viewer when presented with a subsequent image. All of the following options are available: blank screens, neutral images (a Chinese character), and grey screens.

Each group was shown a different set of prime images. One group was shown images that were both positive and negative, such as a cute puppy and a snarling puppy. Another group of people noticed the happy faces of white boys and girls. Following the appearance of the grey screen, both groups were asked to tell their children whether the Chinese characters they had just seen were “nice-looking” or “not nice looking.”

The second experiment involved a different group of children, as well as a different set of circumstances. The most prominent images of black boys and white girls, on the other hand, were characterized by neutral expressions rather than smiles. Participants were asked how much they liked the faces of each boy and girl on a 6-point scale ranging from 1 to 6.

The results of the first experiment revealed that when children were presented with white faces rather than black faces, they responded positively to the Chinese characters presented to them. Additionally, the children responded positively to the Chinese character when it was followed by female faces rather than male faces, as opposed to when it was not. When the Chinese character was shown images of black boys, he received the most negative reactions from the audience.

The second experiment revealed that race had a similar effect on children’s attitudes toward neutral images as the first. However, there was no difference in responses based on the gender of those who took part. Both experiments revealed that children rated black boys less favorably than white girls, black boys, and white boys in comparison to other races.

These findings demonstrate that children exhibit biases from a young age. Perszyk and her colleagues discovered that children absorb stereotypes and become more sensitive to their social status and the social categories they are placed in as a result of this exposure.

The elimination of social biases in the classroom is a priority.

Educators should be aware of the importance of this research and implement strategies in their classrooms to recognize social biases in young children, in recognition of their significance. Just four of the many strategies that educators can use to get started are listed above.

1. Children, even if they are older than expected, may exhibit bias or preference in their interactions with others. Preschoolers can be prejudiced and treat others differently based on their race, gender, and ethnicity, according to research.

2. Decide how you will respond to bias situations: Rather than dismissing situations in which children demonstrate bias, educators can use them as inspiration for story selection, activities, and projects. A child can attempt to control play or dominate materials by establishing power hierarchies. Educators can assist students in resolving their problems by listening to their stories and offering suggestions.

Teachers can assist students in expressing their emotions or sharing a story about a time when they felt rejected by their peers. It is possible to use these dolls to assist children in feeling more comfortable sharing their feelings with others through the medium of dolls.

Teachers can invite their students’ parents and members of the community to visit the classroom to share their antiracist beliefs and practices.

experiences. Or, they could use books to introduce the history of racial relations. EmbraceRaceLee & Low Books blog is two resources that can be used to spark dialogue with children.

3. Take good care of the social environment that you have created for yourself. Children look to adults, including educators, for guidance on how to respond to them when they encounter difficulties. It is critical to recognize and understand one’s preferences and biases to determine whether or not social bias against certain groups is perpetuated in classroom settings. These preferences and biases may influence children’s interactions with their peers in the classroom, as well as the books, images, and activities that educators choose for their students.

Sharing personal stories about their cultural identities with educators can help them become more aware of their prejudices and gain a better understanding of their students. Educators can start this conversation by bringing in a cultural artifact from their own family and explaining its significance.

4. Recognize that bias treatment is a process that must be followed. Even though an educator may want to make a difference right away, it may take some time to accomplish this. In the same way that educators may require time to recognize their own biases, young children will not change their thinking patterns immediately.

Teachers are in a unique position to observe how children’s social biases develop as they engage in play with and interact with their classmates. Consequently, they have the opportunity to assist children in overcoming their prejudices as well as to learn about the everyday and historical experiences of people from a variety of cultural backgrounds. During these explorations, children can be encouraged to create an environment in which all students can learn.