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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Of Faces and Races
26 July 2001 7:00 pm
Most people know from experience that it's easier to recognize faces of people from their own race than those of other races. In the August issue of Nature Neuroscience, cognitive scientists report that certain lower level brain areas appear to play a role. The results are some of the first to link brain activation patterns to social phenomena.
Many studies have shown that blacks recognize black faces more easily, whites are better at recognizing other whites, and so on. Nobody quite knows why. Some scientists think people pay more attention to faces from their own race or respond to them with greater emotion, and as a result remember them with greater accuracy. Other researchers think it's just a matter of experience; you're best at recognizing the type of face you see most often.
Social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt and her colleagues at Stanford University studied the phenomenon in nine black and 10 white subjects using a technique called magnetic resonance imaging. They presented the subjects with photographs of members of the two races. They found that in 17 of the 19 participants the fusiform face area, the brain's face-recognition region, was turned on most strongly when they saw somebody of their own color, indicating that it responds to certain kinds of faces with greater acuity.
New York University psychologist Elizabeth Phelps says the study is "clever," because it links a well-studied brain region to an important social phenomenon. She thinks the findings will expand the new field of social neuroscience, the study of how interaction with others affects the brain.