The malleability of stereotyping matters in social psychology and in society. Previous work indicates rapid amygdala and cognitive responses to racial out-groups, leading some researchers to view these responses as inevitable. In this study, the methods of social-cognitive neuroscience were used to investigate how social goals control prejudiced responses. Participants viewed photographs of unfamiliar Black and White faces, under each of three social goals: social categorization (by age), social individuation (vegetable preference), and simple visual inspection (detecting a dot). One study recorded brain activity in the amygdala using functional magnetic resonance imaging, and another measured cognitive activation of stereotypes by lexical priming. Neither response to photos of the racial out-group was inevitable; instead, both responses depended on perceivers' current social-cognitive goal.
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