Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

How to Make a Racist


How do children, with no innate beliefs or expectations about race, grow up to be racist? To address this complicated question, this seminar will introduce you to some of the cognitive, social, and cultural factors that contribute to the development of racial stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Over the course of the quarter, you will be introduced and asked to evaluate research from developmental, cognitive, social, and cultural psychology, which suggest that the factors that contribute to racist thought emerge early in childhood and persist well into adulthood. We will begin by defining key concepts (e.g., what is race and what is racism? What are the differences between stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination?). Then, in each class, I will introduce you to a factor that has been shown to contribute to racist thought (e.g., lack of intergroup contact, exposure to group-based language, belief in racial “essences”). Each introduction will be supplemented by readings. You will then engage thoughtfully and critically with each factor by sharing your own experiences, perspectives, and insights through class discussion and writing. Collectively, we will then discuss the real-world implications of each factor, as well as strategies on how to minimize their effects. Throughout the quarter, you will often work in small groups and will give at least one presentation. By the end of the quarter, you will have developed an understanding of the psychological factors that contribute to racist thought. Importantly, you will have also developed an understanding of how these factors contribute to your own thinking, as well as an understanding of some strategies that prevent them from doing so. Students with diverse experiences and perspectives are especially welcomed and encouraged to participate, and all students are expected to keep an open mind.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Steven Roberts

Steven O. Roberts

"I am an assistant professor in Stanford’s Psychology Department. Broadly, I research the development of social concepts and their consequences. Specifically, I research beliefs about race and multiracial individuals, reactions to group non-conformity, and how cognitive and social biases contribute to real-world outcomes (e.g., stereotyping, political attitudes, etc.). I recruit racially and ethnically diverse samples to examine the effects of group membership on social concepts, and use a variety of experimental and survey methods with both child and adult participants. My work is grounded in theories of conceptual development and group-based inequality, and shows that social concepts are early-emerging, shaped by social experiences, strengthened across development, and highly consequential. My research has been published in some of psychology’s top journals and featured in local, national, and international media outlets, such as Michigan Radio, CBS, and Daily Mail (UK). In my spare time, I enjoy playing basketball and soccer, watching movies, trying new restaurants, and spending time with loved ones."