The neural basis of implicit attitudes

Damian Stanley, Elizabeth Phelps, Mahzarin Banaji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence that human preferences, beliefs, and behavior are influenced by sources that are outside the reach of conscious awareness, control, intention, and self-reflection is incontrovertible. Recent advances in neuroscience have enabled researchers to investigate the neural basis of these implicit attitudes, particularly attitudes involving social groups. From this research, a model with three identified neural components related to the automatic activation and regulation of implicit attitudes is beginning to emerge. The amygdala is implicated in the automatic evaluation of socially relevant stimuli, while the anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices are involved in the detection and regulation, respectively, of implicit attitudes. Further support for this model comes from the inclusion of these regions in current models concerning the cognitive regulation of emotion and the detection of conflict. The identification of a putative neural substrate for implicit attitudes has had a direct impact on psychological research into their nature and operational characteristics. We discuss how this emerging neural model has influenced current research on implicit attitudes and describe the importance of such models for directing future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-170
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Amygdala
  • Implicit attitude
  • Implicit bias
  • Social cognition
  • Social neuroscience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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