Archived News and Press Releases
Past findings, awards, and other accomplishments of NYU Social Neuroscience faculty, student, and post-doctoral affiliates.
Van Bavel, Packer, & Cunningham paper published online at JOCN:
Modulation of the Fusiform Face Area following Minimal Exposure to Motivationally Relevant Faces: Evidence of In-group Enhancement (Not Out-group Disregard)
This paper used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to the examine the top-down influence of social categorization on face processing. The Fusiform Face Area was selectively engaged following the presentation of in-group compared with out-group or unaffiliated faces, and this bias was associated with a subsequent recognition memory advantage for in-group versus out-group faces.
Studies have shown that fusiform face area (FFA) activity increases with visual expertise. We present a fMRI study showing that faces from a social category made relevant by an experimental manipulation (members of an experimentally created in-group) preferentially recruited the FFA even when they were matched in exposure to face stimuli from a less significant social category (members of an experimentally created out-group). Faces were randomly assigned to groups and fully counterbalanced so that no perceptual cues allowed participants to visually distinguish category membership. The results revealed a pattern of in-group enhancement (not out-group disregard), such that the FFA was selectively engaged following the presentation of in-group compared with out-group or unaffiliated control faces even when the intergroup distinction was arbitrary, there were no visual cues to distinguish group membership, and exposure to in-group and out-group faces was equivalent and brief. In addition, relative differences in the FFA for in-group and out-group faces were correlated with recognition memory differences for in-group and out-group faces. The effects of group membership on the FFA were not affected by task instruction to respond to in-group or out-group members and were functionally dissociated from early visual processing in the primary visual cortex. This study provides evidence that the FFA is sensitive to top–down influences and may be involved in subordinate level (vs. superordinate level) encoding of stimuli in the absence of long-term exposure or explicit task instructions.
Ofan, Rubin, & Amodio paper published online at JOCN:
"Seeing Race: N170 Responses to Race and Their Relation to Automatic Racial Attitudes and Controlled Processing"
This paper used event-related potentials (ERPs) to the examine early visual processing of faces of White and African American people. The visual N170 ERP to Black vs. White faces was associated with participants’ implicit racial preferences and, in some cases, their ability to regulate their behavioral responses.
We used ERPs to examine the relation between early face perception processes and automatic and controlled responses to race. Participants completed a sequential evaluative priming task, in which two-tone images of Black faces, White faces, and cars appeared as primes, followed by target words categorized as pleasant or unpleasant, while encephalography was recorded. Half of these participants were alerted that the task assessed racial prejudice and could reveal their personal bias (“alerted” condition). To assess face perception processes, the N170 component of the ERP was examined. For all participants, stronger automatic pro-White bias was associated with larger N170 responses to Black than White faces. For participants in the alerted condition only, stronger N170 amplitudes to Black versus White faces was also associated with less controlled processing on the word categorization task. These findings suggest that preexisting racial attitudes affect early face processing and that situational factors moderate the link between early face processing and behavior.
Prof. David Amodio receives Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the White House
For the NYU press release, see “full information”
New York University’s David Amodio, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, has been awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The awards, announced by the White House, identify outstanding scientists and engineers who will broadly advance science and the missions important to federal agencies. The PECASE Awards are the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their careers. They are conferred annually at the White House following recommendations from participating federal agencies. Amodio, whose research examines the cognitive and neural mechanisms through which people regulate their social behavior, was nominated by the National Science Foundation. Amodio, under a five-year, $834,000 NSF CAREER award, is currently examining how unconscious, or “implicit,” racial associations operate in the brain, in an effort to understand how they influence behavior and how they may be reduced. The award is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). CAREER awards are the most prestigious NSF awards for junior faculty and are given to those who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through research, education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Amodio’s research has linked different emotional and conceptual forms of implicit racial bias to separate systems of learning and memory in the brain. By connecting these forms of racial associations to well-characterized neural processes, he can apply existing knowledge from neuroscience to shed light on how prejudices are learned and unlearned, and how they may be reduced. The integration of ideas and methods from social psychology and cognitive neuroscience, exemplified in Amodio’s project, characterizes the emerging field of social neuroscience that Amodio has helped pioneer.