Brain scans may be able to detect whether or not a person is racist, a scientific study has reported.
The research, which monitored the human brain’s responses to images of white and black faces, found the most significant reactions occurred in participants with negative attitudes towards race.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found subjects with a stronger race bias may actually perceive black and white faces to look more different.
It also suggests racial stereotypes are shown to have subtle and unintended consequences on how we treat members of different race groups.
After viewing images of black and white faces, participants were asked to perform a task which assessed their unconscious or implicit expression of race attitudes.
By examining patterns of brain activity in the fusiform face area — a brain area involved in face perception — the researchers were able to predict the race of the person that the participant was viewing, but only for those participants with stronger, negative implicit race attitudes.
These results suggest that the ways in which black and white faces are represented in this brain region differ for people with a stronger, implicit race bias compared to people with less or no bias.
Dr Brosch said: “These results suggest it may be possible to predict differences in implicit race bias at the individual level using brain data.”
Dr Phelps added: “Although these findings may be of interest given the behavioral and societal implications of race bias, our ability to predict race bias based on brain data is relatively modest at this time.”
The findings have echoes of a similar study published last year in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Dr Phelps, who also participated in that research, reviewed past brain imaging studies showing how different social categories of race are processed, evaluated and integrated in decision-making.
The study concluded racism is hardwired into the brain and operates unconsciously because areas that detect ethnicity and control emotion are closely connected.
As Medical Daily surmises: "Researchers explain that the same brain circuits that allow us to classify a person into an ethnic group overlap with other circuits that process emotion and make decisions, leading people to make unconscious decisions based on another's race."