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15-Month-Old Babies Show Racial Bias Already

Babies playing with toy balls
Photograph by Jupiterimages

Why do babies choose one playmate over the other? Perhaps one kid has better toys or another just seems nicer? Apparently, a new study proves that it goes well beyond that.

In the study, conducted at the University of Washington, researchers sought to find if fairness played a part in how babies choose playmates. Two white adults divvied up toys to toddlers—the child who was being observed for their choices was white, as well.

One of the researchers was fair in her distribution, the other was not.

According to the findings, 70 percent of the time, the toddlers chose the researcher who distributed the toys evenly. But after some time, another trend emerged.

In another experiment, when the unfair researchers distributed the toys, favoring another white child, the toddler chose them over the fair distributor. In other words, the babies favored the child and the researcher who got the most toys ... if that child was also white. The study's authors were surprised to find that babies as young as 15 months old were already displaying signs of in-group bias concerning race.

"The study revealed when it came to picking a playmate, the babies seemed more tolerant of unfairness when the white recipient benefited from it," The Daily Mail reports.

The researchers noted that the results imply that babies can "take into account both race and social history when deciding which person would make a better playmate."

It would be nice to think that at such a young age, all that babies care about is fairness, but the results reveal something different, that they place importance on taking care of their own "group members."

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