Neural Correlates of Stereotype Application

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 4.09). 07/2008; 21(3):594-604. DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21033
Source: PubMed


Recent research has focused on the disparate mechanisms that support the human ability to "mentalize" about the thoughts and feelings of others. One such process may rely on precompiled, semantic beliefs about the characteristics common to members of a social group, that is, on stereotypes; for example, judging that a woman may be more likely than a man to have certain interests or opinions. In the current study, we identified a pattern of neural activity associated with the use of stereotypes to judge another person's psychological characteristics. During fMRI scanning, participants mentalized about the likely responses of a female and male target to a series of questions, some of which were related to gender stereotypes (e.g., "enjoys shopping for new clothes"). Trials on which participants applied a stereotype were segregated from those on which participants avoided stereotype use. The BOLD response in an extensive region of the right frontal cortex differentiated stereotype-applied from -unapplied trials. Moreover, this neural difference was correlated with a behavioral index of gender associations-the Implicit Association Test-administered after scanning. Results suggest that stereotype application may draw on cognitive processes that more generally subserve semantic knowledge about categories.

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Available from: Adrianna C. Jenkins, Aug 26, 2014
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    • "either typical or atypical of their party ( e . g . , " wants a smaller government " or " wants liberal supreme court judges " ) and asked to form impressions of the targets . As hypothesized , brain regions associated with mentalizing—including the medial prefrontal cortex and temporopari - etal junction ( Adolphs , 2009 ; Amodio & Frith , 2006 ; Mitchell et al . , 2006 ; Saxe & Wexler , 2005 ; Spreng , Mar , & Kim , 2009 ) —were more active when participants viewed nonstereotypical targets , such as a Democrat who preferred smaller government or a Republican who supported liberal supreme court judges . The authors speculated that exposure to expectancy - violating politicians caused partici - pants to individuate them and , in so doing , to recruit brai"
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