Development of Social Category Perception

Brief Description:

In this study, we are interested in the development of social category perception, in particular infants' and children's ability to categorize faces according to information about race and ethnicity, and whether varying degrees of experience with faces of different races may impact this ability during infancy and childhood.

Eligibility for study participation:

We are currently recruiting typically-developing 5 month olds for this study.

  • Infants: 5 months old
  • Born within 2 weeks of due date

Participation Details

This study involves one visit to the Lab. The session will last about 1 � hours and will be scheduled at a time that is convenient for you and your child. Parents will be with their child at all times.

Research Contact:

Kristin Shutts, Ph.D.

Full Description

The ability to process and remember faces is critical to social interactions. Research with adults suggests, however, that not all faces are created equal in perception and memory. For example, adults are better at processing same-race, same-gender, and same-age faces than they are at processing other-race, other-gender, and other-age faces. This effect is known as "own-group bias." When do children begin to show own-group biases, and what is the role of experience in their development?

In this study, we are interested in whether and how infants categorize faces according to visual information about race and ethnicity, as well as what role experience and environment might play in the development of such social category perception. In the study, infants see pictures of White and African-American faces, and we measure their brain activity while they watch these pictures.

The way in which infants respond to these faces is of particular interest to researchers, as babies have yet to experience the many social influences that affect the race-based perceptions and biases of children and adults.