Eye-gaze direction modulates race-related amygdala activity

Jennifer A. Richeson*, Andrew R. Todd, Sophie Trawalter, Abigail Baird

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Although previous research has found greater activity in the human amygdala in response to Black male compared with White male targets, the basis of this effect remains unclear. For example, is it race alone that triggers amygdala activity, or do other stimulus cues, in conjunction with racial group membership, also play a critical role in this regard? To address this issue, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure amygdala activity in response to Black and White male targets displaying different eye-gaze directions (i.e. direct or averted gaze), as gaze cues have been shown to influence the socio-emotional aspects of person construal. The results revealed that eye-gaze direction significantly moderates race-related amygdala activity. Specifically, Black targets only generated greater amygdala activity than White targets when the faces bore direct gaze. This finding is noteworthy as it demonstrates the importance of compound stimulus cues in the appraisal of social targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-246
Number of pages14
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Amygdala activation
  • Eye-gaze
  • Face perception
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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