Neural correlates of automatic beliefs about gender and race

Kristine M. Knutson, Linda Mah, Charlotte F. Manly, Jordan Grafman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Functional MRI was used to identify the brain areas underlying automatic beliefs about gender and race, and suppression of those attitudes. Participants (n = 20; 7 females) were scanned at 3 tesla while performing the Implicit Association Test (IAT), an indirect measure of race and gender bias. We hypothesized that ventromedial prefrontal cortex areas (PFC) would mediate gender and racial stereotypic attitudes, and suppression of these beliefs would recruit dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Performance data on the IAT revealed gender and racial biases. Racial bias was correlated with an explicit measure of racism. Results showed activation of anteromedial PFC and rostral ACC while participants implicitly made associations consistent with gender and racial biases. In contrast, associations incongruent with stereotypes recruited DLPFC. Implicit gender bias was correlated with amygdala activation during stereotypic conditions. Results suggest there are dissociable roles for anteromedial and dorsolateral PFC circuits in the activation and inhibition of stereotypic attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-930
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Attitudes
  • Automatic processing
  • Behavior
  • Emotion
  • Gender differences
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Social cognition
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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