Philosophy Colloquium, Kamuran Osmanoğlu

“It Just Looks the Same: Differences in Racial Categorization among Infants and Older Humans”

By Kamuran Osmanoğlu (University of Kansas, Philosophy)

Date: Thursday 16th November, 2017

Time: 1540-1715

Place: H-232


Forms of racial cognition begin early: from about 3 months onwards, many human infants prefer to look at own-race faces over other-race faces. What is not yet fully clear is what the psychological mechanisms are that underlie racial thoughts at this early age, and why these mechanisms evolved. In this paper, we propose answers to these questions. Specifically, we use recent experimental data to argue that early racial preferences are simply the result of a “facial familiarity mechanism”: a mental structure that leads infants to attend to faces that look similar to familiar faces, and which probably has evolved to track potential caregivers. We further argue that this account can be combined with the major existing treatments of the evolution of racial categorization, which apply to later forms of racial cognition. The result is a heterogeneous picture of racial thought, according to which early and later racial categorization result from very different psychological mechanisms.


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