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Nat Neurosci. 2003 Dec;6(12):1323-8. Epub 2003 Nov 16.

An fMRI investigation of the impact of interracial contact on executive function.

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  • 1Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, 6207 Moore Hall, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.


We investigated whether individual differences in racial bias among white participants predict the recruitment, and potential depletion, of executive attentional resources during contact with black individuals. White individuals completed an unobtrusive measure of racial bias, then interacted with a black individual, and finally completed an ostensibly unrelated Stroop color-naming test. In a separate functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) session, subjects were presented with unfamiliar black male faces, and the activity of brain regions thought to be critical to executive control was assessed. We found that racial bias predicted activity in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in response to black faces. Furthermore, activity in this region predicted Stroop interference after an actual interracial interaction, and it statistically mediated the relation between racial bias and Stroop interference. These results are consistent with a resource depletion account of the temporary executive dysfunction seen in racially biased individuals after interracial contact.

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