A Social Psychologist's Guide to the Development of Racial Attitudes


Correspondence address: Department of Psychology, Yale University, 2 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.

E-mail: sarah.hailey@yale.edu


Over the last several decades, social psychologists have generated a literature rich with information about the racial intergroup attitudes and biases of adults. In parallel, developmental psychologists have documented the emergence and development of these attitudes in children, yet surprisingly little cross-talk occurs between the two fields. Here, we review the developmental literature on racial intergroup attitudes with an eye toward two major themes observed frequently in the social psychology literature: the tendency to favor one's own group and the tendency to favor higher-status groups. We review empirical findings beginning in infancy, revealing that the earliest signs of racial differentiation are present in the first year of life and continue through the elementary school years, noting that explicit attitudes undergo vast developmental changes whereas implicit attitudes remain remarkably stable throughout the lifespan. We also examine potential ways the developmental literature might inform the social psychology of racial intergroup attitudes.