Neurocognitive Basis of Racial Ingroup Bias in Empathy

Highlights

Racial ingroup bias in empathy for individuals in pain is characterized by increased neural responses to perceived pain of same-race relative to other-race individuals across multiple brain regions and multiple time-windows, and is evident in multiple ethnic groups.

Racial ingroup bias in empathic brain activity is mediated by distinct neurobiological mechanisms related to same-race and other-race pain and is affected by sociocultural and physical environments.

Although ingroup bias in empathic brain activity has been widely documented, both laboratory manipulations and real-life interracial experiences can reduce racial ingroup bias in empathy by increasing empathic neural responses to other-race pain.

Racial discrimination in social behavior, although disapproved of by many contemporary cultures, has been widely reported. Because empathy plays a key functional role in social behavior, brain imaging researchers have extensively investigated the neurocognitive underpinnings of racial ingroup bias in empathy. This research has revealed consistent evidence for increased neural responses to the perceived pain of same-race compared with other-race individuals in multiple brain regions and across multiple time-windows. Researchers have also examined neurocognitive, sociocultural, and environmental influences on racial ingroup bias in empathic neural responses, as well as explored possible interventions to reduce racial ingroup bias in empathic brain activity. These findings have important implications for understanding racial ingroup favoritism in social behavior and for improving interracial communication.

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