Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Education Specialist


The way in which children categorize race is a highly debatable topic for which a conclusive result has not yet been found. Researchers hold different views as to whether the concept of race is present at birth, or whether it is something that develops. Previous research has shown that children do not treat race in the same way as adults do. Even by fourth grade, children do not consistently believe in the essence of race (Glerum, 2002). This study more closely examines one of the potential factors for the point at which race is essentialized: knowledge of inheritance. Children were presented with stories and pictures describing superficial changes to a person's racial characteristics, causing the target person to change from black to white or from white to black. The children were asked whether the target's offspring would be transformed as well. Similar stories were also presented for animal transformations, artifact transformations, and hair length transformations. In addition, the students were assessed using a scale for knowledge of inheritance based on the work of Springer (1996), which described characteristics of animal parents in heritable and accidental scenarios and asked about the characteristics of the offspring. It was hypothesized that a greater knowledge of inheritance would be correlated with a greater tendency to essentialize race. This hypothesis was confirmed in regards to the target stimuli's offspring. A wealth of potential for future research on this topic is opened up.


Education | Psychology