January 10, 2016

"Our brains distinguish race insanely quickly, within tenths of a second."

"An other-race face tends to activate the amygdala, an ancient brain region central to experiencing fear and anxiety. Another brain region, the fusiform, helps us recognize individuals, read their expressions and make inferences about their internal state. When we see an other-race face, there is less activation of the fusiform, and we are less accurate at reading facial expressions."

From "How Our Brains Respond to Race/New research shows that the brain’s response to faces of different races develops at a young age," by Robert M. Sapolsky (in The Wall Street Journal).

57 comments:

chickelit said...

Isn't this old "science" news? I recall reading a similar study involving very young children. The take away message was that both back and white babies recognize the opposite race, but that it's only racist if you're a white baby.

Terry said...

Obviously our brains are wrong, and only the government can fix them.

rhhardin said...

So emojis don't work for everybody.

Carol said...

"Racism" is adaptive behavior, yes?

Hagar said...

Given all the present "racial healing," "race" is an unfortunate term for this article.
"Strangers," or "other" would be better, as that is what this reaction from our stone age past is about.

Terry said...

What part of the brain reacts when people are told that they are racist based on shit studies?
The research sample consisted of 49 children. Pop science strikes again!

Luke Lea said...

The accumulating evidence in the fields of evolutionary psychology, human biodiversity, population genetics all support the conclusion that human beings are not meant (have not evolved) to live in multi-racial, multicultural societies. Celebrating diversity flies in the face of these findings. The Western culture and civilization really is different from the rest of the world in certain crucial dimensions (see here for a summary: https://goo.gl/q18ekk). Our politicians and elites need to be more realistic going forwards in their attitudes regarding massive third-world immigration. Personally I would like to see the US adopt an across-the-board immigration moratorium (pause, time-out) until we can assimilate and integrate the seventy-five million first- and second-generation immigrants who are already here, the vast majority from societies with no, or very weak, democratic traditions. We did something similar in the 1920's and it worked out well.

Realism is the first desideratum for moral responsibility in this world.

Shouting Thomas said...

Makes sense. It's a way of distinguishing friendly clan from hostile clan.

Of course, the reality is that when people meet a member of the hostile clan and discover that he isn't a threat, they drop the stereotype quickly.

But, there are times when responding quickly to the stereotype keeps you from getting murdered.

Robert Cook said...

"The take away message was that both back and white babies recognize the opposite race, but that it's only racist if you're a white baby."

No, it's only racist if one perceives the physical differences of other ethnic groups and immediately defines oneself and one's own ethnic group as superior to all the others. We immediately recognize the different hair color of others, but we don't assume we are smarter or more moral than those whose hair color is different than our own.

Fernandinande said...

A key qualification is that the “other-race effect” does not typically occur ...if, say, a Red Sox fanatic views an other-race face wearing a Red Sox cap or a same-race face with a Yankees cap).

If canceled out by someone wearing a hat, it's a pretty trivial effect.

Robert Cook said...

"Of course, the reality is that when people meet a member of the hostile clan and discover that he isn't a threat, they drop the stereotype quickly."

Not necessarily so. People don't give up their ingrained biases easily...and certainly not quickly. More often, those who dislike other ethnic groups will, upon becoming acquainted with some from these ethnic groups and finding them to be normal and likable, will assume those they have met are the exceptions to the rule. They will maintain their beliefs that most of those in these other ethnic groups are blighted by the deficiencies or defects they have always believed were true of them all.

Hagar said...

In "primitive" societies, all other clans are hostile clans and are to be kept out one's own clan's territory.

This does not work so well when we are "the other clan" and want - and have - business all over the world. In the modern world it is in our interest to work at reducing this instinctive reaction; not exacerbating it.

Paddy O said...

How quickly does the brain notice really bad hair?

Terry said...

Robert Cook, the people least likely to mix with other races and social classes are white liberals.
There are more whites and Blacks living cheek by jowl in the Rebel South than in the Yankee North.
The first thing you need to do when combating 'otherizing' people is to quit otherizing them yourself.

Jane the Actuary said...

The whole business of "you've got to be carefully taught" -- that it's human nature to be tolerant and accepting of all races and cultures and it's only due to bigoted parents perpetuating their bigotry -- is foolish. It's human nature to prefer those who are like us, and it handicaps us in America that we are of necessity obliged to overcome this.

Now, to be sure, we are indeed obliged to work to overcome this human reaction -- but it seems to me the "multiculturalism" ideology is making this more difficult in emphasizing differences.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/janetheactuary/2015/12/what-if-diversity-is-our-liability.html

Birkel said...

"…insanely quickly…"

This is a bull shit statement. What insanity does rapidity bespeak? The brain works at nearly the speed of light. Why should anybody be surprised that the brain is working quickly, even in the very young? If one believes in evolution, this should be no surprise whatever.

Besides, race is just a social construct. So these babies have a false consciousness created by their privilege.

Michael K said...

"People don't give up their ingrained biases easily..."

Who knew that Cookie was an Anthropology professor ? Of course, leftist views are 99% so maybe he fits in well.

A lengthy but interesting essay on why we reject "the other" in personal relationships. It explains a lot about the left/right difference in this country and was written by a psychiatrist.

Of course, Cookie knows more about it.

William said...

Sexism and xenophobia are hard wired. Only people from civilized and comfortable backgrounds could posit a theory about noble savages......Every human being deserves to be treated with courtesy and respect. It's not that hard to do. But you notice people's age, weight, sex, race, clothes and form an opinion. It's very difficult to go through life without forming an opinion.

Paco Wové said...

Robert Cook, I believe that what chickelit wrote ("it's only racist if you're a white baby") is what is known in language studies circles as a "joke". "Jokes" often involve other complex linguistic phenomena, such as "sarcasm" and "hyperbole". You may have heard of these concepts.

tl;dr: you really don't need to give your earnest, deadly dull and humorless little sermonettes on every single thing that triggers you.

Ironclad said...

It's survival strategy - hard wired into our brains. We can tell if you "belong" or not visually as well as orally. One of the reasons we have so many languages and dialects is that they are useful for (again) distinguishing people not from your tribe or area.

Jupiter said...

It appears that evolution is not politically correct.

Tom said...

This is helpful to creating a culture where genetically designed racism is used as "original sin".

Gahrie said...

But...I thought there was no such thing as race?

Hyphenated American said...

Strangely, liberal "intellectuals" proclaim that race is a social construct. A good question is: are liberal "intellectuals" smarter than a baby? Based on this study, probably not.

Rae said...

Civilization as we know it is a very recent invention, evolutionary speaking. Modern Homo Sapiens emerged about 300,000 years ago. The first cities appeared around 10,000 years ago. What were they doing in the intervening time?

Not letting refugees into their tribes territory, that's for sure.

All joking aside, I do find it fascinating that the reaction is so deep in the brain, though.

Michael K said...

The British are pretty much in the front lines these days and will have to deal with it. The French are further along but they had Algeria and have been involved with Muslims for a long time.

If migrants from other cultures arrive too fast and in numbers too great for society to absorb and integrate them, they begin to impose those cultures on the host country. Germany is witnessing this now, and so are we.
The louder our governments shout about their dedication to fighting Islamist extremism, the readier they are to Islamise our own society. The sheer size of the Muslim population compels them to do so.



Fernandinande said...

Paddy O said...
How quickly does the brain notice really bad hair?


I was wondering if anyone had done similar tests for other forms of "other": apparent diseases (face marks, spasms, etc), unusual body types (tall, fat, etc), weird clothing.

And, FWIW:
The Unbearable Accuracy of Stereotypes
http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~jussim/papers.html">More.
"Stereotype accuracy is one of the largest and most replicable effects in social psychology."

Drago said...

There is no such thing as race. There is no such thing as gender.

They are all social constructs.

Yet the left views all matters thru the different gender/race/class lens.

Discuss.

Robert Cook said...

"Robert Cook, the people least likely to mix with other races and social classes are white liberals. There are more whites and Blacks living cheek by jowl in the Rebel South than in the Yankee North.

"The first thing you need to do when combating 'otherizing' people is to quit otherizing them yourself."


Terry:

1.) I did not make any distinctions between who is racist and who not, or where they live, or whether the racists in question are white, black, asian, etc. In truth, most people are somewhat racist toward those of other ethnic groups.

2.) I grew up in the south from age 8, and I have first-hand experience with people who have praised their black acquaintances for being good people while maintaining their racist beliefs in general. In fact, I have a relative whose best friend from childhood is black, yet this relative still has generally racist beliefs about blacks, (although he would deny it).

RichardJohnson said...

I experienced this years ago. I was walking through the lobby of a residential hotel in South America when a toddler, about 20 feet from me, commenced screaming. This occurred again, also from a distance.

I concluded that it was because I didn't look like the people the toddler was accustomed to seeing. I had glasses, unlike the people the toddler saw. I had blue eyes, light-colored skin and dirty blonde hair, unlike the Mestizo residents of the hotel. I patronized the hotel many times in the year I was working in the country, and never saw a foreign tourist there, so I doubt the toddler saw many or any people who looked like me.

After a week in the hotel,and in future visits to the hotel, the toddler was able to accept my presence. I could chat with his mother, the hotel manager, without his becoming upset. I doubt that he was upset because I resembled someone with whom he had an unpleasant experience, because I assume had that been the case, his mother would have told me. Conclusion: he was initially upset at seeing someone who didn't look like the people he was accustomed to seeing. As this was a hotel, he was accustomed to seeing strangers, so it wasn't that I was just a stranger, but a stranger who looked different.

I am not going to say this is a universal reaction of a toddler to seeing someone of different appearance- it is the only time I saw such a reaction- but it can occur. Fear of the Other is embedded in our genes.

Robert Cook said...

"'People don't give up their ingrained biases easily...'

"Who knew that Cookie was an Anthropology professor ?"


One doesn't have to know the first thing about anthropology to recognize the real world around them.

"Of course, leftist views are 99% so maybe he fits in well."

I haven't a whisper of an idea what this sentence means.

Fernandinande said...

Rae said...
All joking aside, I do find it fascinating that the reaction is so deep in the brain, though.


According to the article it's a weaker effect than the reaction to seeing a hat with words on it, so I wouldn't say that it's "deep in the brain", or even that it's very significant.

It's just a small but measurable reaction to something that can generate more research funding: race.

Robert Cook said...

Paco Wove,

I appreciate your learned explication of jokes, hyperbole, sarcasm...but chickelit's remark was simply sophomoric and all too typical of the all-too-common not-funny remarks one finds larding this blog's comments, typed by those thinking they're making pointed bons mots.

Robert Cook said...

"But...I thought there was no such thing as race?"

There isn't...there are just variations in the physical appearances of homo sapiens that develop over long periods of time. "Race" is both a mistaken perception and a usefully simple code word meaning "looking--and being from someplace--different than me."

Robert Cook said...

"All joking aside, I do find it fascinating that the reaction is so deep in the brain, though."

My view of the human mind is that it is like a cake: most of our mentation is the cake--emotional, primitive, impulsive, violent--and the small remaining portion is our symbolic and abstract thinking...the "logical" and rational part of our minds that we mistake for being the cake itself, and not merely the frosting.

We're basically just dogs that have learned to talk, or monkeys in spacesuits, as someone else first stated, and which I find to be the perfect metaphor for human beings.

Jonathan Graehl said...

Why does Robert Cook post comments here?

n.n said...

Our brains process information through association or correlation.

traditionalguy said...

Interestingly, one place these automatic discomforts of racial difference don't seem to happen is in the Christian churches that allow the original Christian gifts of the Holy Spirit to operate. The racial angle just seems irrelevant there, like their old minds have been renewed or something and normal racial differences are gone. Scary people.

chickelit said...

Robert Cook rote: I appreciate your learned explication of jokes, hyperbole, sarcasm...but chickelit's remark was simply sophomoric and all too typical of the all-too-common not-funny remarks one finds larding this blog's comments, typed by those thinking they're making pointed bons mots.

And yet, when it came time to exemplify racism in your own anecdote, you instinctively chose white Southerners. Why is that? Why is that always the case with you?

Cook, I've read you here for years. But only just today did it dawn on me that you are one of those New Yorkers whom WFB ignored in his famous "I'd rather be governed by" statement.

EDH said...

How far away is the argument that for certain people racism is a disability that should be accommodated?

Gahrie said...

There isn't...there are just variations in the physical appearances of homo sapiens that develop over long periods of time

Really?

Well we now know there are at least three distinct genetic populations of humans, which generally correspond to those physical variations. In any other species, we would call those sub species, in humans we call them races.

Would you prefer the term sub species?

tds said...

this is why all discussions about race should be done on Internet, where we don't see faces, so brain defensive mechanisms do not activate... .. ... .... wait

Fernandinande said...

Robert Cook said...
"But...I thought there was no such thing as race?"

There isn't...there are just variations in the physical appearances of homo sapiens that develop over long periods of time.


No doubt you incorrectly used the word "appearances" because you dishonestly want to imply that racial differences are unimportant, but replace "appearances" with the correct term "characteristics" and you just defined "race".

"There is more genetic distance between the Bushmen and Bantu than there is between Bantu and Koreans."

Gahrie said...

Why does Robert Cook post comments here?

It's where his handlers assigned him.

Big Mike said...

Interesting bias on the part of the author. Not "immediately" or "within a fraction of a second," but "insanely quickly."

Birkel said...

Robert Cook, above:
"I haven't a whisper of an idea…"

Finally, Robert Cook and I agree.

Robert Cook said...

"And yet, when it came time to exemplify racism in your own anecdote, you instinctively chose white Southerners. Why is that?"

I was responding to another commenter who said: "There are more whites and Blacks living cheek by jowl in the Rebel South than in the Yankee North." I was pointing out that this does not necessarily mean there is less racism in the south than in the north, pursuant to my earlier point: racism doesn't vanish quickly, as Shouting Thomas said, just because one befriends someone from another race. One can hold the opinion that one's (black/latino/asian/other) friend is a fine human being...while also thinking he or she is the exception, and that most other (black/latino/asian/other) people are still inferior/criminal/lazy/ignorant/etc.

My anecdote had to do with my own personal experience...in the south. I'm sure if I had grown up in Boston or NYC or Philly, I could have had a similar anecdote referring to those geographic areas.

Jeez...I hate to be pedantic, but some of you guys really make it necessary. Step it up...connect the dots!

Robert Cook said...

Ferdinande,

Differences in physical characteristics do not define "race." (I used the word "appearances" as a synonym for "characteristics," which is clear. What "dishonest implication" can be inferred? Your use of the phrase "racial differences" simply begs the question that there are different races. We are one race of beings, and among our kind are differences in physical characteristics...in our appearances. This is true within families. Do short brunette kids of tall blond parents belong to a different race than their parents?)

Robert Cook said...

"Why does Robert Cook post comments here?"

Why not? Do you assume all who post here should be in agreement with the majority of opinions expressed here?

J. Farmer said...

"Race" is just short hand for a really big extended family. The same inborn tendency to prefer ones kin to strangers is what drives the natural human tendency towards tribalism. Southern Italy can barely function as a state thanks mostly to its population's preference for clannish family associations rather than disintersted state technocrats. And they are not even contending with anything as profound as a racial difference. As the US' demographics moves towards greater racial diversity, expect social cohesion to decrease. Emigration is probably still the best long-term exist strategy.

Birkel said...

"...disintersted state technocrats..."

And J. Farmer wonders why I know he is a Leftist.

tim in vermont said...

Imagine the amygdala response you would see from a liberal if they were shown pictures of conservatives... Of course such an experiment will never be done.


We are one race of beings, and among our kind are differences in physical characteristics...in our appearances.

Another evolution denier self identifies.

sinz52 said...

Liberals' attempts to "eliminate racism" are as nonsensical as social conservatives' attempts to eliminate premarital sex and demand abstinence.


We humans evolved from lower forms of life for which monogamous marriage did not exist and for which every member of every ape troupe could tell "us" from "them."


It would sure make politics a lot simpler if we recognized that simple truth. We're not angels, robots, or Vulcans from Star Trek.

Homo Sapiens has a baser, animalistic side. We write laws to protect ourselves from the worst excesses of that animalistic side. But unless the day comes that we can use genetic engineering to transform us into a more noble species, our animalistic side will always be with us.

tim in vermont said...

You have to hand it to Robert Cook though, for obstinately refusing to understand that definitions like race and even species in some cases, are political and lecturing us as if such definitions were matters of empirically derived logic.

If science can't discern that which is clearly visible to the human eye, it is science that has failed. To pretend that the various races (as the term is commonly understood, same as we use all the other words in English) have each evolved to the exact same endpoint excepting only those things which cannot be denied because they are clearly visible to all is only possible if you believed that we were all "created equal" by a benevolent being.

Robert Cook said...

"Another evolution denier self identifies."


Hahahaha! So, so wrong.

Robert Cook said...

"If science can't discern that which is clearly visible to the human eye, it is science that has failed. To pretend that the various races (as the term is commonly understood, same as we use all the other words in English) have each evolved to the exact same endpoint excepting only those things which cannot be denied because they are clearly visible to all is only possible if you believed that we were all "created equal" by a benevolent being."

????????????

A truly inscrutable paragraph.

tim in vermont said...

A truly inscrutable paragraph

I have no doubt that it is to you, the ideas being so foreign to your self satisfied sensibilities and precious and comforting mythologies about the human race. Does the imagined absence of any selective effects of varying environments on various sub populations of humans over tens or hundreds of thousands of years beyond the physical ever disturb your belief in evolution? Or is your faith in the fundamental fairness of evolution that strong? (Hint: That last sentence was intended sarcastically.)

I have always maintained that being an atheist is incredibly difficult. Here is another hint for you: If you believe that men and women, for example, have evolved to an identical place in all their faculties, aside from the clear physical differences, and you never question how this state of affairs could come to be absent a benevolent creator creating us all equal, your belief in evolution does not go very deep.