Article | Developmental Psychology | 2008

Learning (Not) to Talk About Race: When Older Children Underperform in Social Categorization

by Evan P. Apfelbaum, Kristin Pauker, Nalini Ambady, Samuel R. Sommers and Michael I. Norton

Abstract

The present research identifies an anomaly in sociocognitive development, whereby younger children (8 and 9 years) outperform their older counterparts (10 and 11 years) in a basic categorization task in which the acknowledgment of racial difference facilitates performance. Though older children exhibit superior performance on a race-neutral version of the task, their tendency to avoid acknowledging race hinders objective success when race is a relevant category. That these findings emerge in late childhood, in a pattern counter to the normal developmental trajectory of increased cognitive expertise in categorization, suggests that this anomaly indicates the onset of a critical transition in human social development.

Keywords: Transition; Age; Race Characteristics; Society; Cognition and Thinking;

Citation:

Apfelbaum, Evan P., Kristin Pauker, Nalini Ambady, Samuel R. Sommers, and Michael I. Norton. "Learning (Not) to Talk About Race: When Older Children Underperform in Social Categorization." Developmental Psychology 44, no. 5 (2008).