Neuroanatomy of intergroup bias: A white matter microstructure study of individual differences

Baumgartner, Thomas; Nash, Kyle Andrew; Hill, Christopher; Knoch, Daria (2015). Neuroanatomy of intergroup bias: A white matter microstructure study of individual differences. NeuroImage, 122, pp. 345-354. Elsevier 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.08.011

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Intergroup bias - the tendency to behave more positively towards an ingroup member than an outgroup member - is a powerful social force, for good and ill. And though it is widely demonstrated, intergroup bias is not universal, as it is characterized by significant individual differences. Recently, attention has begun to turn to whether neuroanatomy might explain these individual differences in intergroup bias. However, no research to date has examined whether white matter microstructure could help determine differences in behavior towards ingroup and outgroup members. In the current research, we examine intergroup bias with the third-party punishment paradigm and white matter integrity and connectivity strength as determined by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). We found that both increased white matter integrity at the right temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) and connectivity strength between the right TPJ and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) were associated with increased impartiality in the third-party punishment paradigm, i.e., reduced intergroup bias. Further, consistent with the role that these brain regions play in the mentalizing network, we found that these effects were mediated by mentalizing processes. Participants with greater white matter integrity at the right TPJ and connectivity strength between the right TPJ and the DMPFC employed mentalizing processes more equally for ingroup and outgroup members, and this non-biased use of mentalizing was associated with increased impartiality. The current results help shed light on the mechanisms of bias and, potentially, on interventions that promote impartiality over intergroup bias.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Social Neuroscience and Social Psychology
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Cognition, Learning and Memory (CCLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Baumgartner, Thomas, Nash, Kyle Andrew, Knoch, Daria


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology








Thomas Baumgartner

Date Deposited:

19 Nov 2015 09:01

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:50

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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