Part of brain responsible for anti-Semitism identified

Part of brain responsible for anti-Semitism identified

In a groundbreaking study on prejudice, neuroscientists have discovered how people form negative stereotypes

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Neuroscientists in London have identified the part of the brain responsible for anti-Semitism and other kinds of prejudice, in a pioneering new study exploring how people form negative stereotypes.

Researchers at University College London, led by Hugo Spiers, identified activity in the anterior temporal lobe which suggests that the brain is pre-wired to prejudice.

While there has already been work on gender or racial stereotyping, this is the first time scientists have looked into how brains learn to link undesirable characteristics to specific groups and how this later emerges as prejudice.

Participants were given information about fictitious social groups, painting the groups as ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ with some things bucking the trend. Once a group was seen as essentially good, brain activity in the anterior temporal pole quickly tailed off, regardless of whether there was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ information about them. However, it continued to respond strongly to any negative information about the behaviour of the ‘bad’ group.

“The data does suggest that the temporal pole of the human brain is responsible for people learning prejudice of any kind, including anti-Semitism,” said Spiers, acknowledging the implications for real-life social groups at risk of negative stereotyping. “We’d love funding for work to help explain why some people end up more prejudiced, and how people unlearn prejudice.”

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