Race Information Influences Cognitive Processes in Brain and Behavior in Black and White Individuals

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Casey, BJ


Race is a prevailing social category in the United States, and physical cues that indicate race are often used as a heuristic to distinguish in- and out-group members. The salience of race can influence our cognitive processes and contribute to racially-biased behavior. The present dissertation examines the contexts in which race information biases behavior and investigates the underlying cognitive and neurobiological processes that contribute to racially-biased behavior. Furthermore, the present dissertation studies illustrate the importance of implementing diversity in participant samples and experimental stimuli in psychological research. Chapter 1 reviews the importance of race as a social group in the United States, how it can uniquely impact cognitive processes, and highlights gaps in the literature due limited representation in experimental paradigms. Chapter 2 examines how task-irrelevant race information impacts cognitive control and illustrates how representative samples can nuance our understanding of cognitive and neurobiological processes underlying biased behavior. Chapter 3 builds upon the previous chapter by investigating the effects of perceived threat on impulse control to task-irrelevant race information and the representation of race information in the brain. Chapter 4 leverages a large open-access dataset to demonstrate the importance of diverse racial representation in experimental samples and stimuli by demonstrating the effects of race information on a series of cognitive processes in youth. Together, these studies examine the contexts in which race information influences cognition and elucidates the neurobiological processes that contribute to racially-biased behavior. Lastly, Chapter 5 highlights the implications of the current work and discusses the opportunity and responsibility researchers have to improve future psychological research work by implementing diverse and representative experimental designs.

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