Growth mindset about prejudice: more interracial interactions

Kristin Pauker et al. (2022) present a new study on the relationship between mindset and interaction between people from different racial groups. The authors describe that, in children, the tendency to associate less with children from other racial groups begins around middle childhood.

Mindset about prejudice

The authors investigated to what extent mindset plays a role in this. In particular, they looked at mindset about racial prejudice. Children with a fixed mindset about prejudice think that these prejudices cannot be changed. Children with a growth mindset about prejudice believe that prejudice about race can change.

The authors suspected that mindset about prejudice predicts the extent to which children want to interact with children from other racial groups.

Study 1: Growth mindset about prejudice: more interaction

They did two studies to find out more about this. Study 1 involved 8-13 year olds (N = 152; 76 white, 76 racial minority). First, they measured the mindset about prejudice in these children. They were then observed in a social interaction task developed especially for this study.

The researchers' hypothesis was confirmed. Children over the age of 10 with a growth mindset about prejudice showed more interest in working with children from other racial groups and felt more related to these children, regardless of their own prejudices.

Study 2: Inducing a growth mindset about prejudice: more interaction

Study 2 was an experiment (N = 150; 96 white, 54 racial minority). The children were randomly divided into two groups. Children in one group were told a story telling them that prejudices cannot be changed. In the other group, the children were told a story with the message that prejudices can change.

They then interacted with a partner of the same or a different race at a different school via live video stream. The children who had heard the story with the growth mindset message showed more interest in continuing to talk to their interlocutor from a different racial group.

Conclusion and reflection

This research shows that mindset plays a role in dealing with people from a different racial background than your own. The more we believe that prejudice is changeable, the more interested we are in interacting with people of different racial backgrounds.

It is good to put prejudices about races into perspective. They are changeable. And the realization that they are malleable makes it easier to interact with each other across racial lines.

A good next step might be to categorize people less along racial lines in the first place (read more).