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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

August 2009, Vol. 21, No. 8, Pages 1560-1570
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21091)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Exploring the Neural Correlates of Social Stereotyping
Article PDF (176.54 KB)

Judging people on the basis of cultural stereotypes is a ubiquitous facet of daily life, yet little is known about how this fundamental inferential strategy is implemented in the brain. Using fMRI, we measured neural activity while participants made judgments about the likely actor (i.e., person-focus) and location (i.e., place-focus) of a series of activities, some of which were associated with prevailing gender stereotypes. Results revealed that stereotyping was underpinned by activity in areas associated with evaluative processing (e.g., ventral medial prefrontal cortex, amygdala) and the representation of action knowledge (e.g., supramarginal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus). In addition, activity accompanying stereotypic judgments was correlated with the strength of participants' explicit and implicit gender stereotypes. These findings elucidate how stereotyping fits within the neuroscience of person understanding.