Study detects prejudice in the brain

Jun 29, 2006

U.S. scientists say they've found people view members of social out-groups, such as homeless people, with disgust and not a feeling of fellow humanity.

Twenty-four Princeton University undergraduates viewed color photographs of different social groups, as well as images of objects such as the space shuttle, a sports car, a cemetery, and an overflowing toilet.

The pictures, say psychology researchers Lasana Harris and Susan Fiske, were designed to elicit emotions of pride, envy, pity, or disgust, as derived from the Stereotype Content Model, which predicts differentiated prejudices.

Medial prefrontal cortex, or MPFC, brain imaging determined if the students chose the correct emotion illustrated by the picture.

The MPFC is only activated when people think about themselves or another human. When viewing a picture representing disgust, however, researchers say no significant MPFC brain activity was recorded, providing evidence that while individuals may consciously see members of social out-groups as people, the brain processes social out-groups as something less than human.

The scientists say they believe brain imaging provides a more accurate depiction of such prejudice than verbal reporting usually used in research studies.

The findings will appear in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: REM sleep critical for young brain development; medication interferes

Related Stories

Brain study yields insight into machinery of prejudice

May 17, 2006

By scanning subjects' brains while they were thinking about people either politically like or different from them, researchers have found that different areas of the brain are active in the two cases. The researchers said ...

Recommended for you

Noise from fireworks threatens young ears

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The Fourth of July weekend is a time for celebrations and beautiful fireworks displays. But, parents do need to take steps to protect their children's ears from loud fireworks, a hearing expert ...

Many new teen drivers 'crash' in simulated driving task

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Around four in 10 newly licensed teen drivers "crashed" in a simulated driving test, suggesting that many adolescents lack the skills they need to stay safe on the road, according to a new study.

New test could predict arthritis drug failure in patients

6 hours ago

A study of 311 patients by The University of Manchester has found that it may be possible to predict early which rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients will fail to respond to the biologic drugs given to treat them. These findings ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.