Faces and races linked in brain study

 作者:桑焚爝     |      日期:2019-03-06 03:07:02
By Greg Miller Psychologists have known for decades that people are better at recognising the faces of people of their own race. Now, for the first time, researchers have linked that advantage to patterns of brain activation. Jennifer Eberhardt and colleagues at Stanford University in California used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor brain activity in European American and African American subjects as they viewed colour photographs of faces of people from both racial backgrounds. Psychologist Elizabeth Phelps of New York University says the study is the first that attempts to understand the neural basis of cross-race face identification and the broader issue of social group membership. But while the results are very suggestive, they do not prove that the brain region identified – the fusiform gyrus – plays a significant role in the same-race memory advantage, she says. “Very rarely do we answer a question that big with one study,” she says. She adds that the results should not be interpreted as evidence that our brains contain a special circuit for processing race information. “Race is a variable in our experience, but race is not a special variable that gets special processing by the brain.” Patrick Vuilleumier, a brain researcher at University College London, agrees. He predicts that European Americans living in predominantly African American communities would be more adept at recognising African American faces and would show similar activation of the fusiform gyrus for both races. “Presumably the effect is dependent on culture rather than on our brains’ being wired like this,” he says. In the study, subjects viewed a series of faces and were then asked to pick the faces they had just seen from a larger sample. The test results matched those reported in previous studies. Although both groups were at least nominally better at recognising faces of their own race, the European Americans’ ability to recognise African American faces was fairly dismal. Many researchers think everyday experience can account for this difference. Both races tend to have more experience looking at faces of their own race, but African Americans are likely to have more exposure to the faces of the majority population, European Americans. Subjects of both races had greater activation of the fusiform gyrus, a brain region thought to play a key role in face recognition, when viewing faces of their own race. Increased fusiform activation was also linked to better performance on the memory test during same-race tests. Journal reference: Nature Neuroscience (vol 4,