News Details

Congratulations to Arianne Eason (PhD, Psychology, 2018), who is featured in this Art & Sciences Perspectives Newsletter article.

AN OPTIMIST STUDIES RACE & EQUITY

When do we become aware of race and equity? Arianne E. Eason (PhD, Psychology, 2018) says it happens before middle school or even grade school. In her research, she has seen that even preschoolers view racial preferences as normal and young toddlers think about equity. Rather than alarming her, these findings give her hope.

“Often people tend to think that kids don’t see race, but the data definitely suggest that as early as four years of age, kids are starting to show preferences for people who are in the same racial group,” says Eason. “They are more likely to interact with same-race peers, and they expect other people to have those preferences as well. If we can understand when this starts happening, and the social environment cues they’re paying attention to, I believe we can leverage that to move toward change.”

Eason has long been interested in race and equity. She developed an interest in psychology more recently, by chance. As a pre-med student at Yale, she needed a job to complete her financial aid package and learned of an opening in the developmental psychology laboratory of Kristina Olson, who studies how children think about social categories. By her junior year, Eason was conducting independent research in Olson’s lab. She decided to pursue a PhD in psychology rather than an MD, and chose the University of Washington for graduate school.

“In my field, I sit across both developmental and social psychology, and the UW was very open to me being able to do both,” Eason says. “It ended up being the best place to do the work that I’m doing.” Olson joined the UW faculty soon after, and remains one of Eason’s mentors.

At the UW, Eason has focused on factors that influence our attitudes about race. Her research has looked at how racially segregated environments, such as predominantly single-race neighborhoods or classrooms, influence not only an individual’s views about interacting with other races, but also their perceptions of whether other races are open to interacting in return.

“My dissertation is largely about how we take cues from our social environment, particularly about the patterns of same-race and cross-race interactions,” says Eason. “I look at how that informs the way we think about individuals within the society, who should be and who are friends, and the consequences of that.”

Four faculty advisers — psychology professors Jessica Sommerville, Stephanie Fryberg (also in American Indian Studies), Cheryl Kaiser, and Olson — have helped guide Eason through her graduate studies. Eason fondly dubs them her “council of elders” and says they have helped her become a more effective researcher and a better person.

Read the entire article here.

Photo of Arianne Eason: CORINNE THRASH