Dr. Shihui Han, Culture and Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Peking University

How to reduce racial bias in empathic neural responses? Manipulations of cognitive strategy and intergroup relation

Date: Friday, 8 April 2011
Time: 14:00-16:00 followed by reception
Location: Meeting room 2.3, Studenternes Hus, Fredrik Nielsens Vej 4, Aarhus
Reception: 16:00-18:00, Meeting room 1.1, Studenternes Hus

Dr. Shihui Han is a professor at the Department of Psychology, Peking University. He is the director of the Cultural and Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. He studies cognitive and neural mechanisms of social cognition such as self-referential processing, empathy, and theory-of-mind, and how cultures influence the underlying neural mechanisms.

Abstract:

How to reduce racial bias in empathic neural responses?
Manipulations of cognitive strategy and intergroup relation

Social relationship affects empathy such that empathic neural response to perceived pain is decreased for racial out-group than in-group members. Why do humans exhibit racial bias in empathy and how can this be reduced? We hypothesized that racial bias in empathy occurs because an other-race individual is perceived as a symbol of a group and empathy for pain occurs toward an individual rather than a social group. This hypothesis predicts that enhanced attention to each individual’s pain or enclosing other-race individuals as in-group members may reduce racial bias by increasing empathic neural response to other-race individuals. Experiment 1 recorded event related brain potentials from Chinese adults during race judgments on unfamiliar Chinese and Caucasian faces with painful or neutral expressions. We identified empathic neural responses at 128-188 ms after stimulus onset over the frontal/central brain regions to same-race faces but not to other-race faces. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated that paying attention to an individual’s painful feeling or including other-race individuals in one’s own team for an imaginary oppositional game increased empathic neural responses to other-race faces. Our findings indicate that manipulations of both cognitive strategy and intergroup relation can reduce racial bias in empathic neural responses.


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