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Teach Tiny Tots To Recognize Other Race Groups, Experts Suggest

by Gopalan on  June 2, 2011 at 11:02 AM Mental Health News   - G J E 4
Exposing infants to facial pictures of different races leaves a lasting impact. They may then have less difficulty as adults  in recognizing other race groups, according to a University of Queensland study.
 Teach Tiny Tots To Recognize Other Race Groups, Experts Suggest
Teach Tiny Tots To Recognize Other Race Groups, Experts Suggest
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Postdoctoral Research Fellow in UQ's School of Medicine Dr Michelle Heron-Delaney said this difficulty was commonly known as Other Race Effect - the effect refers to the greater difficulty people have in distinguishing between members of a different race compared to one's own race: "They all look alike."

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The Other Race Effect presents a major problem when trying to identify a suspect in a crime when the suspect is from a different racial group. It is a well-established phenomenon in adults and is assumed to be a consequence of experience with faces from races that are typically found in their environment.

"For instance, to many adult Caucasians, all Chinese people look alike, while to many Chinese people, all Caucasian people look alike," Dr Heron-Delaney said.

"We found that at six months of age infants can discriminate individual faces from their own and other races but by nine months this ability is typically lost due to minimal exposure with other-race faces."

British researchers have previously reported that the effect develops during infancy. David J Kelly of the University of Sheffield and his team said, "Experience plays a crucial role in the development of face processing. In the study reported here, we investigated how faces observed within the visual environment affect the development of the face-processing system during the 1st year of life. We assessed 3-, 6-, and 9-month-old Caucasian infants' ability to discriminate faces within their own racial group and within three other-race groups (African, Middle Eastern, and Chinese). The 3-month-old infants demonstrated recognition in all conditions, the 6-month-old infants were able to recognize Caucasian and Chinese faces only, and the 9-month-old infants' recognition was restricted to own-race faces. The pattern of preferences indicates that the other-race effect is emerging by 6 months of age and is present at 9 months of age. The findings suggest that facial input from the infant's visual environment is crucial for shaping the face-processing system early in infancy, resulting in differential recognition accuracy for faces of different races in adulthood."

Now in the new study, published in the Public Library of Science , Australian researchers investigated whether infants could maintain the ability to process other-race faces via book training in their own homes between six and nine months.

The team exposed 32 six-month-old Caucasian infants to six colour pictures of faces, and eight different sets of faces in total. Half the group was exposed to Chinese faces and the other to Caucasian faces. The team then retested the infants at nine months.

The results concluded that those infants exposed to Chinese faces were able to maintain the ability to discriminate faces from other-race groups while those infants who did not receive the exposure lost this ability.

"This outcome is unique and exciting - it demonstrates that training on other-race faces at this early stage of an infant's life can prevent the Other Race Effect from developing in the first place," Dr Heron-Delaney said.

"It also confirms that even infants as young at six months of age can learn and remember content from a picture book interaction with their parents."



Source: Medindia
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