The neural basis of stereotypic impact on multiple social categorization

Eric Hehman, Zachary A. Ingbretsen, Jonathan B. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perceivers extract multiple social dimensions from another's face (e.g., race, emotion), and these dimensions can become linked due to stereotypes (e.g., Black individuals. →. angry). The current research examined the neural basis of detecting and resolving conflicts between top-down stereotypes and bottom-up visual information in person perception. Participants viewed faces congruent and incongruent with stereotypes, via variations in race and emotion, while neural activity was measured using fMRI. Hand movements en route to race/emotion responses were recorded using mouse-tracking to behaviorally index individual differences in stereotypical associations during categorization. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) showed stronger activation to faces that violated stereotypical expectancies at the intersection of multiple social categories (i.e., race and emotion). These regions were highly sensitive to the degree of incongruency, exhibiting linearly increasing responses as race and emotion became stereotypically more incongruent. Further, the ACC exhibited greater functional connectivity with the lateral fusiform cortex, a region implicated in face processing, when viewing stereotypically incongruent (relative to congruent) targets. Finally, participants with stronger behavioral tendencies to link race and emotion stereotypically during categorization showed greater dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation to stereotypically incongruent targets. Together, the findings provide insight into how conflicting stereotypes at the nexus of multiple social dimensions are resolved at the neural level to accurately perceive other people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-711
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • ACC
  • DlPFC
  • FMRI
  • MPFC
  • Mouse-tracking
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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