Cultural influences on neural systems of intergroup emotion perception: An fMRI study

Tokiko Harada, Yoko Mano, Hidetsugu Komeda, Lisa A. Hechtman, Narun Pornpattananangkul, Todd B. Parrish, Norihiro Sadato, Tetsuya Iidaka, Joan Y. Chiao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Cultural factors, such as cultural group membership, have been shown to affect neural bases of face and emotion perception. However, little is known about how cultural factors influence neural processing of emotional faces expressed by in-group and out-group members. In this study, we examined cultural influences on neural activation during the intergroup perception of negative emotional faces. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare neural activation during intergroup emotion processing across cultures in three participants groups; two monocultural groups (i.e. Caucasian-Americans and native Japanese) and a bicultural group (i.e. Japanese-Americans). During scanning, the participants completed an emotional match-to-sample task consisting of negative facial expressions of Japanese and Caucasians. Our results show cultural modulation of neural response in the bilateral amygdala as a function of in-group biases and collectivistic values. Additionally, bicultural Japanese-Americans showed enhanced neural responses in the ventral medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices, which had been related to self-related processing, during the perception of negative facial expression of Japanese. Neural activation in the ventral and posterior cingulate cortices reflected individuals’ collectivistic tendencies only in the Japanese-American group, possibly due to greater sensitivity to ingroup biases in bicultural individuals. Our results demonstrate the influence of culture on neural responses during the perception of intergroup emotion from faces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107254
StatePublished - Feb 3 2020


  • Bicultural individual
  • Culture
  • In-group
  • Intergroup emotion
  • Negative facial expression
  • Out-group
  • Race
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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