Racism and in-group favoritism is prevalent in our society and has been studied in Social Psychology for a long time. Recently it has become possible to investigate the neural mechanisms that underlie these in-group biases, and hence this review will give an overview of recent developments on the topic. Rather than relying on a single brain region or network, it seems that subtle changes in neural activation across the brain, depending on the modalities involved, underlie how we divide the world into ‘us’ versus ‘them’. These insights have important implications for our understanding of how in-group biases develop and could potentially lead to new insights on how to reduce them.
These insights also have implications for cultural and developmental differences between individuals. For example, people in cultures that score high on vertical collectivism see themselves as part of the collective but accept inequalities within the group while people in cultures that score high on horizontal collectivism also see themselves as part of the collective but see all members of the collective the same. Therefore it is likely that explicit and implicit neural correlates involved in perceiving others will be influenced by the cultural environment. In some cultures negative attitudes toward some individuals or out-groups might be more socially acceptable than in others, which would in turn modulate the individual’s executive control over his or hers in-group biases.