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See Inside July/August 2009

Head Lines: Practice Removes Prejudice

Practice Removes Prejudice
Like it or not, most people hold subconscious stereotypes about individuals of races other than their own. New research found a link between such implicit (unconscious) bias and the “other-race effect”—the fact that we can distinguish faces of our own race better than other-race faces. In the study, Caucasians’ implicit bias toward African-Americans diminished after they learned to individuate faces of that race.

The other-race effect is not the cause of implicit racial bias, but it prevents us from overcoming our preconceived notions, says lead author Sophie Lebrecht. Only after learning to tell other-race faces apart can we “start to break down these stereotypes.”

Don't Talk it Out
Too much chat about their problems may lead middle school–age girls into depression, according to a recent study at Stony Brook University. Past research indicates that girls are more likely than boys are to co-ruminate, repeatedly discussing difficulties with friends, speculating about causes and excessively dwelling on negative emotions. In the new study, psychologists confirmed that girls who co-ruminate more often than their peers have more depressive symptoms. They also found a new link with romantic experience: co-rumination was most likely to result in depressive symptoms among girls who were most active romantically.

Genetic Overlap
Synesthesia is not caused by one gene, as long believed, but by many, according to a recent American Journal of Human Genetics study. Researchers linked the neurological condition—characterized by unusual sensory experiences such as seeing colors when hearing sounds [see “Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes,” by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Edward M. Hubbard; Scientific American Mind, Vol. 16, No. 3; 2005]—to regions on four chromosomes. Included in these areas: genes previously implicated in autism, another condition involving excess connections in the brain. That doesn’t mean synesthetes are autistic (or vice versa). But it may explain synesthesialike symptoms reported in some forms of autism. Follow-up studies are under way to see if synesthesia is more common in those with autism and to explore other genetic coincidences, including possible connections among synesthesia, dyslexia and perfect recall (extraordinary memory ability).

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