Friday, January 29, 2016
ORE and Prejudice
Fear, anxiety, and prejudice play a major role in the human condition. Per prejudice, preliminary neuroimaging, employing both PET and fMRI technology has provided with us with beginning data regarding the function of our brain in understanding this significant societal problem. Facial identification research has demonstrated that our brains can distinguish between faces of different races within tenths of a second. This phenomena is called “other-race-effect” or ORE. When viewing the face of an individual of another race, our amygdala that which is responsible for fear, flight or fight responses and anger, becomes activated. The fusiform face area [FFA] of our brain, on the other hand, it is speculated allows us to recognize and differentiate faces by reading their expressions and making appropriate inferences. Unfortunately, when we view an individual of another race, there at times can be less activation in the fusiform area of our brain. This suggests that we might be less able to “read” those facial expressions correctly. Interestingly, the ORE does not typically occur when we perceive the faces of well-liked celebrities, actors, actresses, entertainers and sports figures of other races. Also, there is variability as to the size or degree of ORE distinguishing ability. Further, individuals who grew up in racially homogeneous environments show larger ORE’s. A quick translation suggests there’s likely an innate tendency to see members of other races as “them” rather than “us.” At a very early age from 6 to 9 months we begin distinguishing among faces, people and divide them into at least two groups such as friendly and unfriendly. Differences can be reinforced by caretakers, and the social economic setting where we live. Thus we have the interplay of nature and nurture. All this seems to take place as natural and normal within the first five years of life. Then we attend school, and likely find differences among classmates. With differences come friends, non-friends, cliques, popularity and fitting in. Hardly anyone chooses to be a loner or an outcast within the group. Blending, becoming part of seems to be the need for affiliation. Sports or being a good athlete seems paramount. One can be a poor student, a newcomer and/or larger than others, and still become popular If they are good in athletics. In Bo’s Warriors, Thom Darden was the perfect example. Thom lived in the projects in Sandusky, Ohio. The school system segregated the students into two groups-college prep and the “other.” This meant the white students were in the college prep curriculum and the blacks in the non-college prep curriculum or other. Even though this young, skinny, shy, acne faced black was placed in the college prep curriculum, he excelled and was part of the in- group only because of his athleticism. He was a terrific athlete and that fact alone, made him an integral part of that favored, popular group. That meant acceptance in this racist community. Unfortunately, some of his black buddies resented his newfound status. Even though popular, Darden was not permitted to openly befriend and date Caucasian females. It wasn’t until Thom Darden enrolled at the University of Michigan, and became a starter in his sophomore year, that things changed. He was now a star and that mitigated the fact that he was black. In fact, he was like a magnet as far as the women were concerned. In other words, the brains ORE and its fusiform, worked their magic, and Thom Darden became a “we,” “us” or an inclusive member of the larger group. Pardon the cliché, “Thom’s playing field was leveled.” Darden continued to enjoy females of all races while playing for the Cleveland Browns. Incidentally, Thom married Melissa and they have a biracial daughter Carrie. He told me that some of the high school kids wanted to touch her hair and he told her that it was her responsibility to educate her classmates. “Yes, my hair, my skin, my color is different, but my actions, especially, expectations and motivation to achieve are similar to yours.” We know that if she had been an outstanding high school athlete, some of her difficulties would likely have been greatly diminished. Hopefully, your ORE and fusiform neurological functioning will not impair your interpersonal relationships. At least you know, having a human brain has its pros and cons. Take advantage of your brain power and use it productively.