Dr. Rebecca Peretz-Lange | State University of New York at Purchase
Tackling Prejudice at Its Cognitive-Developmental Roots
Before most children know how to tie their shoes, they already hold robust prejudices based on race, gender, weight, and more. How do these prejudices first form? I argue that early prejudices reflect not only what children observe in their social world, but how children intuitively explain what they observe. Through several lines of experiments with young children, I demonstrate how early explanatory processes support the development of prejudice. One line of work focuses on how children’s explanations for social disparities impact attitudes toward disadvantaged groups (Peretz-Lange, Perry, & Muentener, 2021; Peretz-Lange & Muentener, 2021; Peretz-Lange, Pitt, & Coley, 2023). Another line focuses on how explanations for social identities impact attitudes toward individuals who are fat, gay, and disabled (Peretz-Lange, 2021; Peretz-Lange, Carvalho, & Muentener, 2023; Peretz-Lange & Kibbe, 2023). Finally, a third line of work focuses on how children’s explanations for their own positions in social hierarchies shape their moral judgments of inequality (Peretz-Lange, Harvey, & Blake, 2022a, 2022b). By understanding the cognitive-developmental origins of prejudice, we can inch toward disrupting prejudice at its roots.