The Neuroscience of Intergroup Relations: An Integrative Review

Mina Cikara, Jay J. Van Bavel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We review emerging research on the psychological and biological factors that underlie social group formation, cooperation, and conflict in humans. Our aim is to integrate the intergroup neuroscience literature with classic theories of group processes and intergroup relations in an effort to move beyond merely describing the effects of specific social out-groups on the brain and behavior. Instead, we emphasize the underlying psychological processes that govern intergroup interactions more generally: forming and updating our representations of "us" and "them" via social identification and functional relations between groups. This approach highlights the dynamic nature of social identity and the context-dependent nature of intergroup relations. We argue that this theoretical integration can help reconcile seemingly discrepant findings in the literature, provide organizational principles for understanding the core elements of intergroup dynamics, and highlight several exciting directions for future research at the interface of intergroup relations and neuroscience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-274
Number of pages30
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014


  • cognition
  • intergroup relations
  • neuroscience
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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