Learning social attitudes: children’s sensitivity to the nonverbal behaviors of adult models during interracial interactions
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White children show marked ingroup race preferences and a relative devaluation of Black people. The origin of these early interracial attitudes is to a large extent still unclear. The studies here test the possibility that preschool-aged children are particularly sensitive to the nonverbal behaviors performed by White adults during interracial interactions. In Study 1, children were shown a video displaying an interaction between a White and a Black adult. Across conditions, the White adult's verbal behaviors were either friendly or neutral, whereas his nonverbal behaviors showed either easiness (e.g., closeness, high eye contact) or uneasiness (e.g., distance, avoidance of eye contact). Results revealed that participants shaped their attitudes toward the Black target accordingly, independently from the White adults' verbal behaviors. Study 2 replicated the basic findings and demonstrated that the observed effects generalized to other Black targets. Results are discussed in relation to current approaches to understanding the formation of racial attitudes among children.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Developmental Psychology and Ageing