What is interesting about this is it calls into question just how early children start prejudging based on race:
In addition to asking whether infants consider an individual’s prior history of fair and unfair behavior in making their social selections, we asked whether information about the social category membership of an individual affects infants’ social selections. In the current study, we operationalized social category membership in terms of the race of the individuals, as adults systematically use race as an indicator of social category membership (Fiske and Neuberg, 1990; Hewstone et al., 1991; Stangor et al., 1992). Evidence suggests that same-race social preferences are in place by the school-aged years: elementary-aged children reveal a racial bias in their friendships and in peer nominations, preferring same-race peers (Aboud et al., 2003; Bellmore et al., 2007). Work using experimental paradigms also demonstrates that the impact of race on children’s social preferences can be traced back to at least the early preschool years. Three- to five-year-old children systematically select same-race unfamiliar peers and adults as potential friends over those of another race (Katz and Kofkin, 1997; Kinzler and Spelke, 2011). Moreover, children prefer others who exclusively affiliate with members of their ingroup: Caucasian preschoolers selectively preferred characters in vignettes who were depicted playing with other Caucasian characters as potential friends, rather than those depicted with Black characters (Castelli et al., 2007). In addition to possessing race-based social preferences children as young as three also show adult-like implicit race biases in an age-appropriate version of the Implicit Association Task (Dunham et al., 2013).
It is not entirely cut and dry:
We were motivated to investigate the impact of race on infants’ social selections as current research suggests infants show an early sensitivity to race in their attentional patterns. Evidence from visual preference studies suggests that race influences infants’ looking preferences for different faces: infants as young as 3 months of age prefer to look at same-race over other-race faces (Kelly et al., 2005). Existing research on social selections based on race in infancy, however, has yielded mixed results. On the one hand, preliminary findings using live, interactive paradigms with 12-month-old infants indicate that Caucasian infants prefer to take toys offered by Caucasian versus Asian individuals when given no other information about the individuals (Shin et al., 2011). On the other hand, Kinzler and Spelke (2011) found that 10-month-old infants selected toys associated with a Caucasian adult at equal rates as toys associated with a Black adult, providing no evidence for race-based social selections in infancy. Thus, the extent to which infants consider race in their social selections is an open question.
In conclusion, the results of the current study suggest that infants can use fairness concerns to guide their social selections. However, infants also take into consideration the race of individuals, and the consequences of the behavior of these individuals for their own- versus other-race individuals.
If we want to find a way to overcome racism - understanding how it affects young children, and why, is undoubtedly going to be the catalyst - which makes this report very important to adding to the available knowledge on how and why brains make judgments on race.
Indeed, the results of Experiment 2 suggest that when given the opportunity to select individuals on the basis of fairness, on the basis of race, or based on the consequences of the distributor’s actions for own- versus other-race individuals, infants most strongly consider the consequences for own- versus other-race members. These findings may suggest that when confronted with selecting between individuals on the basis of who abides by a fairness norm versus on the basis of who advantages own-race (versus other-race) individuals, infants may more strongly weight the consequences for individuals of their own race, and, by extension, for the self. Thus, infants may strategically select social partners who previously advantaged members of their own social category, suggesting that they may use group membership to predict the consequences of future interactions for themselves. Thus, our work is consistent with the conclusion that infants and young children may be strategic in their prosocial considerations (Dunfield and Kuhlmeier, 2010; Vaish et al., 2010; Shaw et al., 2012), factoring in not only whether an individual acts fairly, but also the potential consequences of this behavior for their own interactions with others.
This suggests the ideas we have about the causes of racism - ignorance and hatred are too simple to explain why racism appears inherent in very young children.
While education and personal experiences, which dispense with ignorance, do help to create non-prejudicial adults (They simply educate out of it) the study suggests that while education can defeat racial judgments over the long term - these are not necessarily the causes of racism. Something else, inherent in children, is.