Classic minimal-group studies found that people arbitrarily assigned to a novel group quickly display a range of perceptual, affective, and behavioral in-group biases. We randomly assigned participants to a mixed-race team and used functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify brain regions involved in processing novel in-group and out-group members independently of preexisting attitudes, stereotypes, or familiarity. Whereas previous research on intergroup perception found amygdala activity - typically interpreted as negativity - in response to stigmatized social groups, we found greater activity in the amygdala, fusiform gyri, orbitofrontal cortex, and dorsal striatum when participants viewed novel in-group faces than when they viewed novel out-group faces. Moreover, activity in orbitofrontal cortex mediated the in-group bias in self-reported liking for the faces. These in-group biases in neural activity were not moderated by race or by whether participants explicitly attended to team membership or race, a finding suggesting that they may occur automatically. This study helps clarify the role of neural substrates involved in perceptual and affective in-group biases.
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