Absence of Racial Stereotyping in Williams syndrome children

Article from Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 7, R307-R308 13 April 2010 doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.02.009
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  Magazine R307  How does the levels o selectionquestion relate to the ‘major evolutionary transitions’? Suchtransitions, as dened by EörsSzathmáry and John Maynard Smith,occur when ree-living biologicalunits, capable o surviving andreproducing alone, coalesce intoa single larger unit, giving rise to anew, higher-level individual — orexample, in the evolution o multi-celled organisms rom single-celledancestors. In transitions o this sort,there is the potential or selectionto act on both the smaller and thelarger units — the individuals andthe groups. For the groups to evolveinto ‘real’ individuals, i.e. integratedcohesive units, group-levelselection must trump individual-level selection. So multiple levels oselection are intimately involved withevolutionary transitions. What about species selection? This was an idea deended byStephen J. Gould and othermacroevolutionists, which saysthat selection may operate onwhole species over geological time,avouring those species best able tosurvive or reproduce (i.e. speciate).This could explain why certaintypes o species, e.g. ecologicalspecialists, become more commonthan others, e.g. generalists, in agiven clade, and thus indirectlyhelp explain long-term evolutionarytrends. Species selection is certainlya logical possibility, but it isdicult to assess how important anevolutionary process it has been. Where can I fnd out more? Dawkins, R. (1982). The Extended Phenotype.(Oxord: Oxord University Press.)Foster, K.R. (2010). A deense o sociobiology.Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Q. Biol. 74,  in press.Keller, L. (1999). Levels o Selection in Evolution .  (Princeton: Princeton University Press.)Maynard Smith, J. and Szathmary, E. (1995).The Major Transitions in Evolution . (Oxord:Oxord University Press.)Michod, R. (1999). Darwinian Dynamics:Evolutionary Transitions in Fitness andIndividuality. (Princeton: Princeton UniversityPress.)Okasha, S. (2006). Evolution and the Levels oSelection. (Oxord: Oxord University Press.)Sober, E. and Wilson, D.S. (1998). Unto Others.(Cambridge: Harvard University Press.)West, S.A ., Grin, A.S. and Gardner, A. (2007).Social semantics: altruism, cooperation,mutualism, strong reciprocity and groupselection. J. Evol. Biol.  20 , 415–432. Department o Philosophy, University oBristol, Bristol BS8 1TB, neurobiology. In the rst applicationo this approach, children with autism,which have proound impairments intheory o mind and social interactions,were ound to make stereotypical judgments based on race andgender, just like typical children[5]. Here, we used the same task[5](see Supplemental inormation available on-line with this issue) to investigate racialand gender stereotyping (Figure 1A )in a group o twenty children with WS (10emale and 10 male) aged 7 to 16 years(M = 12.9; SD = 2.8), and twentycontrol children aged 5 to 15 years(M = 7.0; SD = 1.8), individuallymatched to WS participants on gender(10 emale and 10 male) and mentalage ( F  (1, 38) = 2.97,  p > 0.09). As agroup, the participants with WS hadIQs within the usual range or thiscondition, but contained a proportiono high- perorming, normal IQ subjects.Conrming previous work, the controlchildren showed strong pro-Caucasianbias (  X  2 (1,19) = 60.33,  p < 0.001). Incontrast, no evidence o race bias wasound with the WS children (Figure 1B),whose scores were not statisticallydierent rom 50% (  X  2 (1,19) = 28.0,  p >0.05), indicating that they attributedpositive and negative eaturesequally to Caucasian (in- group) andnon- Caucasian (out-group) characters.Conversely, sex-role bias waspronounced and identical in the twogroups (  p > 0.99), indicating that absentracial stereotypes were not due to anoverall eature attribution impairment.Chronological age dierences betweenthe WS and the control groups, orintellectual diculties in WS childrenwere unrelated to these ndings (seeSupplemental inormation).To our knowledge, this is the rstindication o the absence o racialstereotyping in a human group. Whileit is possible in principle that childrenwith WS were dierentially exposedto other ethnicities, this is unlikelyas they were recruited rom similarsocial backgrounds, and stereotypesemerge in normally developing childrenwithout such exposure[1]. Our results thereore indicate that it was WS thathad dissociable eects on genderand race bias, suggesting dierentialneurobehavioral mechanisms or thedevelopment and/or maintenance othese stereotype categories. As stated, reduced social earis a hallmark characteristic o WS,linked to overriendliness and socialdisinhibition, even with individuals  Absence of racial,but not gender,stereotyping inWilliams syndromechildren  Andreia Santos 1,2 ,  Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg 1 , and Christine Deruelle 2 Stereotypes — oten implicitattributions to an individual basedon group membership categoriessuch as race, religion, age, gender,or nationality — are ubiquitous inhuman interactions. Even three-yearold children clearly preer their ownethnic group and discriminate againstindividuals o dierent ethnicities[1]. While stereotypes may enable rapidbehavioural decisions with incompleteinormation, such biases can leadto conficts and discrimination,especially because stereotypes canbe implicit and automatic[2], making an understanding o the srcin ostereotypes an important scienticand socio-political topic. An importantprocess invoked by out-groups issocial ear[3]. A unique opportunity to study the contribution o thismechanism to stereotypes is aordedby individuals with the microdeletiondisorder Williams syndrome (WS),in which social ear is absent,leading to an unusually riendly, highapproachability behaviour, includingtowards strangers[4]. Here we show that children with WS lack racialstereotyping, though they retain genderstereotyping, compared to matchedtypically developing children. Ourdata indicate that mechanisms or theemergence o gender versus racialbias are neurogenetically dissociable.Specically, because WS is associatedwith reduced social ear, our datasupport a role o social ear processingin the emergence o racial, but notgender, stereotyping. A variety o cognitive, social/ behavioural and emotive processescould in principle contribute tostereotyping. The study o populationswith clear impairments in theseunctions can thereore provideinormation about the underlying Correspondence  Current Biology  Vol 20 No 7R308 regulation with prerontal cortex[6], and to decreased interactions between the usiorm ace area (FFA)and amygdala[7], ndings that have subsequently been conrmed inindividuals with WS and intellectualimpairment. Interestingly, these regionsare thought to be the neural substratesunderlying race inormation processingin typically developing individuals.Specically, previous studiesound heightened FFA activationin Caucasian and non-Caucasianindividuals while viewing own-raceaces[8]. In the amygdala, studies have reported increased activity ornon-Caucasian relative to Caucasianaces in both Caucasian and non-Caucasian individuals[9]. Finally, prerontal regulation o amygdala isinvoked when subjects move beyondstereotypical to individual judgementsabout out-group members[10]. These ndings are consistentwith the speculation that decreasedamygdala and FFA activity andinteractions reduce implicit race biasin WS through diminished signallingo the social threat associated witha race out-group. This idea couldbe tested directly by a combinedneurogenetic-imaging approach,which could also use other out-groupethnicities, to which participantshave not been exposed, to controlor the eect o novelty, which canalso aect amygdala activation. Moregenerally, our data provide evidence orneurogenetically dissociable pathwayso stereotyping, the urther study owhich may suggest ways o reducingbiased behaviour towards vulnerableor marginalized groups. Supplemental Information Supplemental inormation is available at  Acknowledgments We are grateul to all the participants, theirparents and the French Regional and NationalWilliams Syndrome Associations. A. Santoswas supported by the Fyssen oundationto conduct this study. References 1. Castelli, L., De Amicis, L., and Sherman,S.J. (2007). The loyal member eect: onthe preerence or ingroup members whoengage in exclusive relations with the ingroup.Dev. Psychol. 43 , 1347–1359.2. Banaji, M.R., and Hardin, C. (1996). Automaticstereotyping. Psychol. Sci. 7  , 136–141.3. Olsson, A., Ebert, J.P., Banaji, M.R., andPhelps, E.A. (2005). The role o social groupsin the persistence o learned ear. Science  309 ,785–787.4. Frigerio, E., Burt, D.M., Gagliardi, C., Cio, G.,Martelli, S., Perret, D.I., and Borgatti, R. (2006).Is everybody always my riend? Perceptiono approachability in Williams syndrome.Neuropsychologia. 44 , 254–259.5. Hirscheld, L., Bartmess, E., White, S., and Frith,U. (2007). Can autistic children predict behaviorby social stereotypes. Curr. Biol. 17  , 451–452.6. Meyer-Lindenberg, A., Hariri, A.R., Munoz,K.E., Mervis, C.B., Mattay, V.S., Morris, C.A.,and Berman, K.F. (2005). Neural correlates ogenetically abnormal social cognition in Williamssyndrome. Nat. Neurosci. 8 , 991–993.7. Sarpal, D., Buchsbaum, B.R., Kohn, P.D.,Kippenhan, J.S., Mervis, C.B., Morris, C.A.,Meyer-Lindenberg, A., and Berman, K.F. (2008). A genetic model or understanding higher ordervisual processing: unctional interactions othe ventral visual stream in Williams syndrome.Cereb. Cortex. 18 , 2402–2409.8. Golby, A.J., Gabrieli, J.D., Chiao, J.Y., andEberhardt, J.L. (2001). Dierential responses inthe usiorm region to same-race and other-raceaces. Nat. Neurosci. 4 , 845–850.9. Lieberman, M.D., Hariri, A., Jarcho, J.M.,Eisenberger, N.I., and Bookheimer, S.Y. (2005). An MRI investigation o race-related amygdalaactivity in Arican-American and Caucasian- American individuals. Nat. Neurosci. 8 , 720–722.10. Freeman, J.B., Schiller, D., Rule, N.O., and Ambady, N. (2010). The neural srcins osupercial and individuated judgments aboutingroup and outgroup members. Hum. Brain.Mapp.  31 , 150–159. 1 Central Institute o Mental Health, Universityo Heidelberg/Medical Faculty Mannheim,Mannheim, Germany. 2 Mediterranean Instituteo Cognitive Neuroscience, CNRS, Marseille,France.E-mail: that objectively are considered asnot approachable[4]. Our results, while they do not completely excludealternative explanations, thereoresuggest that social ear contributes tothe development o racial stereotype:gregarious social behaviour inWS could lead to reduced racebias, but absent racial stereotypescould themselves contribute tohypersociability, meaning that thedirectionality o this hypothesizedinteraction cannot be inerred rom ourdata. Conversely, preserved sex-rolestereotyping in WS indicates thatsocial ear does not play a prominentrole in this exemplar o stereotype. Wethereore obtained a rst indication thatmechanisms underlying dierent ormso stereotypes are not uniorm. Rather,our data suggest that other cognitiveprocesses such as social imitativelearning and overgeneralization mayplay a role in sex-role bias. At the neural level, reduced socialear and hypersociability in a dierentgroup o high-unctioning individualswith WS has been traced to diminishedamygdala reactivity to social threatsin the context o abnormal amygdala A 050100Racial attitude Condition    %    S   t  e  r  e  o   t  y  p  e  c  o  n  s   i  s   t  e  n   t  r  e  s  p  o  n  s  e  s Control groupWS groupSex role B Current Biology Figure 1. Lack o racial stereotyping by WS children.(A) Examples o racial-attitude (top) and sex-role (bottom) items. Racial attitude items: thetwo gures in each picture were identical except or the skin-colour dierence — pinkish-tan versus medium brown. Figures o both sexes were employed, and a variety o ages wererepresented. The gures were drawn in a variety o sitting, standing, and walking positions,with the pictures being otherwise generally ambiguous as to any activities in which the per-sons represented might be engaged. Each picture was accompanied by a story containingone o six positive evaluative adjectives (such as kind, pretty, smart) or one o six negativeevaluative adjectives (such as, bad, ugly, stupid), with the child being asked which o the twopersons was the one described in the story. Sex role items: each o the sex role items dis-played a male and emale gure o the same general age, and o the same race (hal o thepictures represented Caucasians; hal, non-Caucasians). Sex role items assessed the child’sknowledge o typical sex-stereotyped behaviours, and provided a control measure o generalconceptual development. (B) Contrast o percentage-transormed responses in the in-group(sex-role) and the out-group (racial-attitude) conditions, 50% indicating no bias. Children withWS and control children showed a similar stereotype-consistent bias on the sex-role condi-tion. Yet, on the racial-attitude condition, children with WS responses were signicantly lessstereotype-consistent than that o controls (Group x Condition interaction: F  (1,38) = 7.93;  p =0.007), and showed no evidence or bias (  X  2 (1,19) = 28.0,  p > 0.05).
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