Race, Behavior, and The Brain: The Role of Neuroimaging in Understanding Complex Social Behaviors

Elizabeth A. Phelps, Laura A. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Recent advances in brain imaging techniques have allowed us to explore the neural basis of complex human behaviors with more precision than was previously possible. As we begin to uncover the neural systems of behaviors that are socially and culturally important, we need to be clear about how to integrate this new approach with our psychological understanding of these behaviors. This article reviews findings about the neural systems involved in processing race group information, in particular the recognition of same-race versus other-race faces and the explicit and implicit evaluation of race groups. Combining the psychological and neural approaches can advance our understanding of these complex human behaviors more rapidly and with more clarity than could be achieved with either approach alone. However, it is inappropriate to assume that the results of neuroimaging studies of a given behavior are more informative than the results of psychological studies of that behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-758
Number of pages12
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Bias
  • Brain imaging
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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