Does nature play a role in forming prejudices?

The Boston Globe:

Anyone who’s ever been to a playground or read “Lord of the Flies” knows that children don’t have to be taught how to pick on unpopular peers. But a troubling new study in the journal Psychological Science offers evidence that the impulse to hurt those who are different shows up even in children too young to speak.

In a study involving 200 babies, researchers at Yale and the University of British Columbia first demonstrated that babies were far more likely to favor a rabbit puppet that preferred the same food they did. Then they broadened the experiment by introducing two dog puppets — a “helper” dog that was nice to the rabbits, and a “harmer” dog that was mean.

Read the whole story: The Boston Globe

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Researchers have found that even children who are too young to speak are predisposed to harming those who are different from them. The study first showed that children preferred rabbits that liked the same food that they did. Next, the study showed that the children preferred the dog that harmed rabbits that liked different food than they do over the dog that was nice to rabbits that liked the same food that they do. The first result of the study verified the In-group bias, where people tended to favor individuals inside their group relative to members outside their group. The second result of the study did not verify the current belief about the roots of prejudice, but instead proposed that people are predisposed to have prejudices by nature. Both the scapegoat hypothesis (that says prejudice arises from a need to blame others for our misfortunes) and the just-world hypothesis (that says we have a deep-seated need to perceive the world as fair and that everything happens for a reason) are not applicable in this scenario because the children have neither experienced misfortune nor been exposed to the idea that rabbits are naturally mistreated.

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