Children's racial bias in perceptions of others' pain

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Abstract

Previous research indicates that American adults, both Black and White, assume a priori that Black people feel less pain than do White people (Trawalter, Hoffman, & Waytz, 2012, PLoS One, 7[11], 1–8). The present work investigates when in development this bias emerges. Five-, 7-, and 10-year-olds first rated the amount of pain they themselves would feel in 10 situations such as biting their tongue or hitting their head. They then rated the amount of pain they believed two other children – a Black child and a White child, matched to the child's gender – would feel in response to the same events. We found that by age 7, children show a weak racial bias and that by age 10, they show a strong and reliable racial bias. Consistent with research on adults, this bias was not moderated by race-related attitudes or interracial contact. This finding is important because knowing the age of emergence can inform the timing of interventions to prevent this bias.

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