60-Second Science

Williams Syndrome Kids Show No Racial Bias

Kids with the genetic condition called Williams syndrome have no social anxiety and are highly gregarious--and also exhibit no racial bias in standard social-bias experiments. Adam Hinterthuer reports

People start stereotyping early. Even toddlers react positively to members of their own race, but often distrust those from different groups. The seeds of racism are planted in most everyone. Everyone, that is, except people with a rare genetic condition called Williams syndrome.

Williams syndrome is marked by heart defects, mental retardation, and a lack of social anxiety that produces exceedingly friendly human beings. And a new study published in the journal Current Biology finds that children with Williams syndrome don’t make racial stereotypes. [See Andreia Santos, Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg and Christine Deruelle,]

Researchers re-did previous social-bias experiments on 20 children with Williams syndrome and 20 control kids. The children viewed pictures of people of assorted races and genders and assigned negative or positive storylines to each picture. True to form, the control group preferred their own race and gender. The children with Williams syndrome, however, had no racial preference—although they still discriminated by gender.

The results imply a nuanced neural mechanism to stereotyping, the further study of which “may suggest ways of reducing biased behavior towards vulnerable or marginalized groups.”

—Adam Hinterthuer

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

See also Children who form no racial stereotypes found

And Genetic Condition's Interplay With Culture


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