Little Kids Quickly Learn to Judge a Face

National Geographic:

We’ve all looked at someone’s face and thought: “Now there’s someone I can really trust.” Or perhaps: “I wouldn’t trust him with a wooden nickel.” To the surprise of social scientists, children as young as three make the same sort of judgments based on nothing more than facial features. That’s what researchers found in a new study published in Psychological Science.

Mahzarin Banaji, Emily Cogsdill, and Elizabeth Spelke of Harvard andAlexander Todorov of Princeton showed pairs of faces to 99 adults and 141 children ages three to 10. Each pair of faces was designed to connect to one of three adjectives: trustworthy, dominant, or competent. (For kids, the terms used were mean/nice, strong/not strong, smart/not smart.)

The researchers expected the adults to be pretty much in agreement in picking who was trustworthy, dominant, and competent or not. And they were. The rate of consensus was in the 80 to 95 percent range. But they didn’t expect a similar trend among the kids.

“We were dumbstruck when we found very young children have these preferences by age three,” says psychology professor Banaji. Children aren’t born with such biases, and the researchers imagined that “it was a slow process” to develop them.

Read the whole story: National Geographic

See Mahzarin Banaji at the 26th APS Annual Convention.

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