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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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.