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The neuroscience of race

Nature Neuroscience volume 15, pages 940948 (2012) | Download Citation

Abstract

As the racial composition of the population changes, intergroup interactions are increasingly common. To understand how we perceive and categorize race and the attitudes that flow from it, scientists have used brain imaging techniques to examine how social categories of race and ethnicity are processed, evaluated and incorporated in decision-making. We review these findings, focusing on black and white race categories. A network of interacting brain regions is important in the unintentional, implicit expression of racial attitudes and its control. On the basis of the overlap in the neural circuitry of race, emotion and decision-making, we speculate as to how this emerging research might inform how we recognize and respond to variations in race and its influence on unintended race-based attitudes and decisions.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank L. Atlas for help with Figure 1, A. Meilich for help with Table 1 and J. Reitzes for feedback on various stages of this manuscript. We would like to acknowledge support by grants from the Macarthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Network and the National Institute of Mental Health (MIT080756).

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  1. Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, New York, USA.

    • Jennifer T Kubota
    •  & Elizabeth A Phelps
  2. Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Mahzarin R Banaji
  3. Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, New York, USA.

    • Elizabeth A Phelps

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth A Phelps.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3136

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