The pictures, designed to be ambiguous, are at the heart of a groundbreaking new study on children and race commissioned by CNN's Anderson Cooper 360°. White and black kids were asked: "What's happening in this picture?", "Are these two children friends?" and "Would their parents like it if they were friends?" The study found a chasm between the races as young as age 6.
Overall, black first-graders had far more positive interpretations of the images than white first-graders. The majority of black 6-year-olds were much more likely to say things like, "Chris is helping Alex up off the ground" versus "Chris pushed Alex off the swing."
They were also far more likely to think the children pictured are friends and to believe their parents would like them to be friends. In fact, only 38% of black children had a negative interpretation of the pictures, whereas almost double -- a full 70% of white kids -- felt something negative was happening.
Researchers say that the findings reveal the different ways parents talk to their children about race. "African American parents ... are very early on preparing their children for the world of diversity and also for the world of potential discrimination," child psychologist and University of Maryland Melanie Killen told CNN. "They're certainly talking about issues of race and what it means to be a different race and when it matters and when it doesn't matter."
Image: African-American and white girls, via Shutterstock.