An fMRI investigation of the impact of interracial contact on executive function

Jennifer A. Richeson, Abigail A. Baird, Heather L. Gordon, Todd F. Heatherton, Carrie L. Wyland, Sophie Trawalter, J. Nicole Shelton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

352 Scopus citations


We investigated whether individual differences in racial bias among white participants predict the recruitment, and potential depletion, of executive attentional resources during contact with black individuals. White individuals completed an unobtrusive measure of racial bias, then interacted with a black individual, and finally completed an ostensibly unrelated Stroop colornaming test. In a separate functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) session, subjects were presented with unfamiliar black male faces, and the activity of brain regions thought to be critical to executive control was assessed. We found that racial bias predicted activity in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in response to black faces. Furthermore, activity in this region predicted Stroop interference after an actual interracial interaction, and it statistically mediated the relation between racial bias and Stroop interference. These results are consistent with a resource depletion account of the temporary executive dysfunction seen in racially biased individuals after interracial contact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1323-1328
Number of pages6
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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