Monday, November 14, 2011


Neurolaw: Differential brain activity for Black and White faces predicts damage awards in hypothetical employment discrimination cases


Currently, potential jurors' racial biases are measured by explicit questioning––a poor measure because people often hide their views to adhere to social norms, and people have implicit views they are not consciously aware of. In this experiment, we investigated whether two alternative methods of measuring racial bias––a standard Black/White, good/bad Implicit Association Test (IAT) and neural activity, measured by fMRI, in response to seeing faces of Black and White individuals––could predict how much money subjects would award Black victims in hypothetical employment discrimination cases. IAT scores failed to predict how much money subjects awarded victims. However, in right inferior parietal lobule (BA 40) and in right superior/middle frontal gyrus (BA 9/10)––which have both previously been implicated in measuring biases and implicit preferences––the difference in neural activity between when subjects viewed Black faces paired with neutral adjectives and when subjects viewed White faces paired with neutral adjectives was positively correlated with the amount of money the subjects awarded victims. This suggests that brain activity measures racial bias with more practical validity, at least in this situation and with our sample size, than a common behavioral measure (the IAT).

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