Developing gender- and race-based categories in infants: Evidence from 7 - and 11-month-olds

Sandra R. Waxman*, Ariel D. Grace

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

As adults, our social categories are flexible and abstract. We establish gender categories that include individuals from different racial groups, and racial categories that include individuals of both genders. But how do representations like these develop? In this chapter, we review the literature on infants' sensitivity to race and gender categories, and then offer new evidence concerning 7- and 11-month-old US infants' developing appreciation of social categories (gender; race). At issue is whether they appreciate gender- and race-based categories, and if so, how abstract these categories might be. During habituation, infants viewed a set of individual faces, all from the same racial and gender category (e.g., all White females). At test, they viewed two new faces, selected to assess the breadth of their social categories. At both 7 and 11 months, infants revealed an appreciate of gender categories (female, male) that were sufficiently abstract to include individuals from different racial groups (e.g., they included both black an white individuals in their category of females). The pattern for racial categories was different. At 11 months, infants revealed an appreciate of race-based categories (white, black) that were sufficiently abstract to include individuals from different gender groups (e.g., they included both females and males in their category of White). At 7 months, infants showed no such appreciation of race-based categories. This research opens several new avenues for research in this key area. In discussion these avenues, we highlight the role of experience in the development of social categories and underscore the importance of extending the developmental research to include infants and young children raised in a more diverse set of circumstances that reflect more fully the range of human social experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychology of Culture
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Pages159-175
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781622572748
StatePublished - Nov 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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    Waxman, S. R., & Grace, A. D. (2012). Developing gender- and race-based categories in infants: Evidence from 7 - and 11-month-olds. In Psychology of Culture (pp. 159-175). Nova Science Publishers, Inc..