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    Human face-selective cortex does not distinguish between members of a racial out-group



    Summary: When White perceivers looked into photographs of two different Black men, the face area of their brains responded as if the two photos are portraying the same person. This effect was restricted to outgroup faces; the face area successfully distinguished faces of two different White individuals.

    Source: Science Daily.

    Two or more people who interact with each other and have a similar goal, i.e. to constitute a group. There are several types of groups and subgroups existing in the society. The members of the group we identify ourselves with and perceive ourselves to be a part of based on some criteria (like race, similar religious backgrounds, academic group or other similar aspects) are the ingroup members, the rest are called the outgroup members and the group is referred to as outgroup. We tend to form an outgroup with respect to an ingroup. It has been observed that people often fail to individuate members of social outgroups and perceive them only as the part of that specific group, a phenomenon known as the outgroup homogeneity effect.

    Psychologists at Harvard University have tried to explore this phenomenon using fMRI repetition suppression to investigate the neural representation underlying this effect. In a pre-registered study, 29 White human perceivers responded to pairs of faces indicating White or Black targets. For each of the pairs, the second face depicted either the same target as the first face, a different target from the same race, or a scrambled face outline. They tried to localize face-selective neural regions with an independent task, and demonstrated that neural activity in the fusiform face area differentiated different faces only when targets belonged to the perceivers’ racial ingroup (White). However, the face-selective cortex did not discriminate between other-race individuals.

    It was also observed, across two studies conducted on 67 individuals, that perceivers were not only slower to discriminate between different outgroup members but also remembered them to a lesser extent.

    Together, these results indicated that the outgroup homogeneity effect arises when early-to mid-level visual processing results in an erroneous overlap of representations of members belonging to the outgroup. The result highlighted the failure of basic representational mechanisms in processing individuals from other social groups differently from ingroups.

    Published: Science Daily.

    Contact: Nov Reggev, Ben Gurion University.

    Details: Image source Unsplash


    Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

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