Racial homogeneity in early childhood may affect brain

Kids who lived in orphanages have difficulty interpreting emotions on faces with foreign features

3:22pm, August 13, 2013

Seeing people of different races early in life may sculpt the developing brain, a new study suggests. Children who spent infancy in Chinese or Russian orphanages with little contact from outsiders had difficulty perceiving emotions on faces of people of unfamiliar races. These children also showed heightened brain responses to faces of unfamiliar races. 

“This new study is unique in that it for the first time tells us that early exposure to faces of different races is important,” says psychologist Kang Lee of the University of Toronto. “The lack of such exposure can have long-lasting effects.”

Although the results, published in the Aug. 14 Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that race shapes the brain during infancy, the study can’t say what such a brain change might mean, says study coauthor Eva Telzer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Our findings do not say anything about children’s behavior in their daily life.”

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