June 21, 2007

Autistic kids recognize stereotypes

Autistic Children Recognize Stereotypes Based On Race And Sex, Study Suggests"Even with their limited capacities for social interaction and their apparent inability to orient to social stimuli, these autistic kids pick up and endorse social stereotypes as readily as normally developing kids," said Lawrence Hirschfeld of the New School for Social Research in New York. "One take-away point is that stereotypes are very easy to learn and very robust. They don't require higher order attention, or apparently even attention to social stimuli, to develop. Stereotypes can be learned even in the face of damage to the 'social brain' and under extraordinarily constrained conditions."

In fact, the researchers found that autistic children who have a verbal age between 6 and 7 years--and who fail ToM tasks--know and use gender and race stereotypes just like normal children. Hirschfeld said he suspects the stereotypes originate within subtle and seemingly incidental messages that saturate the culture--for example, through advertising or biased attention by the media.

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