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: We drink more alcohol on gym days

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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

We drink more alcohol on gym days

1 hour ago

A new Northwestern Medicine study finds that on days when people exercise more—typically Thursdays to Sundays—they drink more alcohol, too.

Sierra Leone, Liberia brace for new Ebola cases

1 hour ago

Two of the West African nations hardest hit by Ebola were bracing for new caseloads on Monday after trying to outflank the outbreak with a nationwide checkup and a large new clinic.

Reversing the effects of pulmonary fibrosis

2 hours ago

Yale University researchers are studying a potential new treatment that reverses the effects of pulmonary fibrosis, a respiratory disease in which scars develop in the lungs and severely hamper breathing.

User comments : 0