Prof. Shihui Han's lab: Using multimodal brain imaging to reveal neural dynamics of racial categorization of faces



It is common that people spontaneously sort different individuals into a racial group and this results in differences in attitude and behaviour toward same-race and other-race individuals. Racial categorization has drawn attention of psychologists and neuroscientists due to relevant social consequences. Shihui Han and colleagues published the first brain imaging study that revealed racial ingroup favoritism in empathic neural responses to others' pain (Xu et al., 2019, Journal of Neuroscience). Their following research showed additional brain imaging evidence that suggests an asymmetric race processing model (Han, 2018, Trends in Cognitive Sciences). This model hypothesizes that racial categorization plays a key role in racial bias in cognition and empathy. On Oct. 7th, 2019, they published an article in Nature Human Behaviour titled "Neural dynamics of racial categorization predicts racial bias in face recognition and altruism" to test their theoretical model. Using multimodal brain imaging measures, including electroencephalography, functional magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography, they investigated how the brain enables spontaneous racial categorization. They examined the neural dynamics of racial categorization by quantifying the repetition suppression of neural responses to faces of different individuals of each racial group (that is, Asian, black or white). They showed evidence that categorization of other-race faces engages early two-stage dynamic activities in neural networks consisting of multiple interactive brain regions. Categorization of same-race faces, however, recruits a different and simple network in a later time window. Dynamic neural activities involved in racial categorization predict racial biases in face recognition and altruistic intention. Their findings shed new light on distinct neural dynamics by which the brain sorts people into different racial groups as a social ground for cognition and action



Xu, X., Zuo, X., Wang, X., Han, S. (2009). Do you feel my pain? Racial group membership modulates empathic neural responses, Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 8525-8529.

Han, S. (2018). Neurocognitive basis of racial ingroup bias in empathy. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22, 400-421.

Zhou, Y., Gao, T., Zhang, T., Li, W., Wu, T., Han, X., & Han, S. (2019). Neural dynamics of racial categorization predicts racial bias in face recognition and altruism. Nature Human Behaviour. doi:10.1038/s41562-019-0743-y.