Implicit Race Bias Decreases the Similarity of Neural Representations of Black and White Faces

Tobias Brosch, Eyal Bar-David, Elizabeth A. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Implicit race bias has been shown to affect decisions and behaviors. It may also change perceptual experience by increasing perceived differences between social groups. We investigated how this phenomenon may be expressed at the neural level by testing whether the distributed blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) patterns representing Black and White faces are more dissimilar in participants with higher implicit race bias. We used multivoxel pattern analysis to predict the race of faces participants were viewing. We successfully predicted the race of the faces on the basis of BOLD activation patterns in early occipital visual cortex, occipital face area, and fusiform face area (FFA). Whereas BOLD activation patterns in early visual regions, likely reflecting different perceptual features, allowed successful prediction for all participants, successful prediction on the basis of BOLD activation patterns in FFA, a high-level face-processing region, was restricted to participants with high pro-White bias. These findings suggest that stronger implicit pro-White bias decreases the similarity of neural representations of Black and White faces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-166
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013



  • face perception
  • individual differences
  • neuroimaging
  • social cognition
  • stereotyped attitudes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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