Racism is something we know is a learned behavior but the question researchers and journalists have been trying to get to the bottom of for years is just how young do children begin to develop certain perceptions and prejudices about members of other races.

Next week, Anderson Cooper will air a special week-long program on his CNN show AC360 highlighting findings from a year-long investigative study on how children perceive interracial contact on a day to day basis. Partnering with psychologist Dr. Melanie Killen of the University of Maryland, together they examined how early children begin to form attitudes and opinions about race.

In order to get a representative cross-section of the US population, the study was conducted on 145 African American and Caucasian children in six different schools across three states. The kids were shown images that were scientifically designed to be ambiguous to children, like a girl potentially pushing another child to the ground or a boy stealing money from another kid, and then asked, what is happening in this picture? In another set of questions, a young boy was asked whether the African American child and Caucasian child in the image could be friends, and Anderson said he found the response, “frankly surprising.” The video also shows another young boy being asked if it would be easy for a child to convince his parents that it was ok to have other types of people over to his house and the child emphatically shook his head no.

While reactions to the program will no-doubt incite strong emotions from viewers, Anderson made it a point to say the purpose of the study wasn’t to judge or criticize certain children.

“This is about educating all of us about subconscious biases that most of us probably have, and trying to understand where those biases come from—how they’re formed and importantly, what can be done about them.”

If anything, this is can be an important teaching moment for parents and educators to realize just how much their behaviors and opinions shape the children around them and how they can prevent the spread of stereotypical racial prejudices by exploring their own.

Check out the preview for next week’s special. Will you watch?

  • Ms. Information

    I’m not surprised, these studies like this, including the doll test consistently show that kids begin to harbor racism very early – the question is what is going to be done about it…enough with the obvious studies!

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    Anderson Cooper moisturizes my kinks! He is so damn foiiiiiiiiiiine! Not to add that his hair is all white ed out! He is my white version of Lance Gross!!!!!!

    No. I won’t watch it.

  • Dalili

    Exactly! I like Anderson alot but I won’t be tuning in.

  • Pseudonym

    OMG…you are SO right. Anderson Cooper is SO the white (more mature) Lance Gross!!!

  • apple

    what, asian,and hispanic kids don’t have opinions on race either?
    i hate these studies. the results gone be the same, they all gonna think the black doll, picture. whatever is the darkest is bad, and they all gona think the lightest is right..

    there cnn, i saved you time and money

  • besa acua

    not watching.

    everything is about black and white.

    what about the other races?

    how do they feel about each other?

    spanish about asian? middle easterns about whites?

  • Anon

    He’s gay.

  • Socially Maladjusted

    I agree witth everyone else so far, all “studies” of this kind are redundant. People are racist towards blacks because

    we are not yet strong enough to deter racists.

    End of.

    They can take their BS studies and shove em.

    I don’t even like the premise in the examples shown.

    In the first one – the white kid’s pose is neutral and inactive while the black kid is posed in an active stance which makes him the subject of judgment.

    The subliminal message being that whites are always just innocently minding their own well behaved, law abiding business, but you have to watch those blacks closely to make sure they’re not up to no good.

    F uck off -

    cracker muvva f ‘er.

    If white people want to know about racism they should study themselves and their own culture starting 1492.

  • Freebee33

    Didn’t he do this already?

  • Cognorati001

    Surprised that most people don’t know he’s gay — he doesn’t keep it secret, either.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    I know! His sexual orientation does not take away from the fact that this man right hurr, is FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOINE!

  • Guest

    What, we didn’t exist before 1492?

  • Blue Ocean Breezy

    Spanish people are White.

  • JC

    @Ms. Information.

    You are not the intended audience, that’s why the conclusion seems obvious to you. The audience is an otherwise well meaning liberal/moderate white persons who assumes that aside from the occasional southerner, we are in a post-racial era.

  • Andrea

    Yeah people always seem confused about Spanish people being White.

  • Andrea

    Yes, or at least the doll test.

  • Andrea

    I mean shade test where the kid picks out the good and bad baby or pretty and ugly baby.

  • Laina

    The doll test, give me a break. All AC had to do was look in the newsroom where he works to understand the results of the test.

  • Fox

    Sick of these types of studies.

  • jjoneluv

    I’m sick of these studies like other commenters. Race is a social issue that will always impact children, despite what parents do – or do not – tell them. Just look at how sex is portrayed in the media; my parents may not tell me a thing about sex, but it’s everywhere.

    I think we’ve all established that kids have biased feelings when it comes to skin color, so how about identifying solutions for once? That could help both children and adults alike, because we need things to change.

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