Children with the genetic condition known as Williams syndrome have unusually friendly natures because they lack the sense of fear that the rest of us feel in many social situations. Now, a study reported in the April 13th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, suggests that children with Williams Syndrome are missing something else the rest of us have from a very tender age: the proclivity to stereotype others based on their race. The findings support the notion that social fear is at the root of racial stereotypes. The researchers say the results might also aid in the development of interventions designed to reduce discriminatory attitudes and behavior towards vulnerable or marginalized groups of society. Previous studies have shown that stereotypes are found ubiquitously in typically developing children—as early as age 3—as they are in adults, Meyer-Lindenberg explained. Even children with autism display racial stereotypes, despite profound difficulties in daily social interaction and a general failure to show adapted social knowledge.
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