Dynamic representations of race: processing goals shape race decoding in the fusiform gyri

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-03-02 02:33Z by Steven

Dynamic representations of race: processing goals shape race decoding in the fusiform gyri

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Volume 9 Issue 3 (March 2014)
pages 326-332
DOI: 10.1093/scan/nss138

Christian Kaul
Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science
New York University

Kyle G. Ratner
Department of Psychology
New York University

Jay J. Van Bavel, Assistant Professor of Social Psychology
New York University

People perceive and evaluate others on the basis of social categories, such as race, gender and age. Initial processing of targets in terms of visually salient social categories is often characterized as inevitable. In the current study, we investigated the influence of processing goals on the representation of race in the visual processing stream. Participants were assigned to one of two mixed-race teams and categorized faces according to their group membership or skin color. To assess neural representations of race, we employed multivariate pattern analysis to examined neural activity related to the presentation of Black and White faces. As predicted, patterns of neural activity within the early visual cortex and fusiform gyri (FG) could decode the race of face stimuli above chance and were moderated by processing goals. Race decoding in early visual cortex was above chance in both categorization tasks and below chance in a prefrontal control region. More importantly, race decoding was greater in the FG during the group membership vs skin color categorization task. The results suggest that, ironically, explicit racial categorization can diminish the representation of race in the FG. These findings suggest that representations of race are dynamic, reflecting current processing goals.

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Is race erased? Decoding race from patterns of neural activity when skin color is not diagnostic of group boundaries

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2013-10-07 17:20Z by Steven

Is race erased? Decoding race from patterns of neural activity when skin color is not diagnostic of group boundaries

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Volume 8, Issue 7 (October 2013)
pages 750-755
DOI: 10.1093/scan/nss063

Kyle G. Ratner
Department of Psychology
New York University

Christian Kaul
Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science
New York University

Jay J. Van Bavel, Assistant Professor of Social Psychology
New York University

Several theories suggest that people do not represent race when it does not signify group boundaries. However, race is a visually salient social category associated with skin tone and facial features. In the current study, we investigated whether race could be decoded from distributed patterns of neural activity in the fusiform gyri and early visual cortex when visual features that often co-vary with race were orthogonal to group membership. To this end, we used multivariate pattern analysis to examine an fMRI dataset that was collected while participants assigned to mixed-race groups categorized own-race and other-race faces as belonging to their newly assigned group. Whereas conventional univariate analyses provided no evidence of biased race-based responses in the fusiform gyri or early visual cortex, multivariate pattern analysis suggested that race was represented within these regions. Moreover, race was represented in the fusiform gyri to a greater extent than early visual cortex, suggesting that the fusiform gyri results do not merely reflect low-level perceptual information (e.g., color, contrast) from early visual cortex. The findings indicate that patterns of activation within specific regions of the visual cortex may represent race even when overall activation in these regions is not driven by racial information.

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