Museum of Science, Boston

Race Learning

How do children learn from different types of people?

Previous research has shown that the race and gender of a child’s teacher can play a role in the child’s learning. This may be because children tend to trust information given by members of their own social group. However, little is known about how this finding applies to multiracial children. In this study, we hope to investigate how children learn new things from people of various racial backgrounds.

In this study, children (ages 3-8) watch a few short video clips. The videos contain people of different races playing with unfamiliar objects/toys (e.g., wooden juicer, foam kneepad). After each video, we give children the object they saw in the video clip and ask them how they would play with the object. We also ask children questions about their preferences (e.g., which child they would rather learn from). By asking these questions, we hope to shed light on the role that the race of teachers may play for young children. We are particularly interested in how multiracial children learn from teachers with similar or different social identities, in comparison to monoracial children.

This study will help us understand how children learn in interracial settings. In a society that is increasingly diverse, this is an essential topic to investigate.

Learn about other research related to Learning From Others.

This research is conducted by the Social Psychology Lab at Tufts University

Try it at the Museum

Who is a good teacher?

When looking for information about the objects in the Discovery Center, who does your child ask? Does s/he seek out people who look similar? People who are familiar? People who gave them information in the past? Children take into account a variety of factors when deciding whom to learn from. Observe them for a while and see if you notice any patterns in their behavior!

Try it at Home

Copycat

Find some “mystery objects” in your house – any strange objects that your child has never seen before. Demonstrate how to use the object by inventing a made-up action (swinging, tapping, spinning, etc). Now give the object to your child and ask him/her how it works. Does your child copy you or do they try something different with the object? Why do you think they chose the way they did?