T&C Chen Center for Social and Decision Neuroscience Seminar

Thursday, April 29, 2021
10:00am to 11:00am
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Online Event
Race and the brain: Insights from the neural systems of emotion and decisions
Elizabeth Phelps, Pershing Square Professor of Human Neuroscience, Harvard University,

Abstract: Investigations of the neural systems mediating the processing of social groups defined by race, specifically Black and White race groups in American participants, reveals significant overlap with brain mechanisms involved in emotion. This talk will provide an overview of research on the neuroscience of race and emotion, focusing on implicit race attitudes. Implicit race attitudes are expressed without conscious effort and control, and contrast with explicit, conscious attitudes. In spite of sharp decline in the expression of explicit, negative attitudes towards outgroup race members over the last half century, negative implicit attitudes persist, even in the face of strong egalitarian goals and beliefs. Early research demonstrated that implicit, but not explicit, negative attitudes towards outgroup race members correlate with blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signal in the amygdala – a region implicated in threat representations, as well as emotion's influence on cognition. Building on this initial finding, we demonstrate how learning and decisions may be modulated by implicit race attitudes and involve neural systems mediating emotion, learning and choice. Finally, we discuss techniques that may diminish the unintentional expression of negative, implicit race attitudes.

For more information, or if you are interested in attending this online seminar, please contact Liz Schroeder by email at eschroder@caltech.edu.