The Neuroscience of Prejudice

One might argue that hardness would be the opposite of gentleness.  Neurologically prejudice is just that.  When our hearts have become hardened in positions that do not correlate to reality then real hurt can occur.  This is hurt not just to others, but also to ourselves.  When we move through the world in either conscious or unconscious bias, we do not allow ourselves to open up to possibilities.  We can be wrecking balls of hate without even knowing it.

Prejudice is generally defined as a preconceived judgment or irrational attitude.  It often involves hostility.  Prejudice can be callous or harsh.  It prevents the truth from being heard.  It is the ground of discrimination and animosity.

There are several parts of the brain associated with prejudice.  The amygdala involves our association with threats.  As the mind creates and maintains understanding of threats, our ideas can become reinforced.  The anterior insula involves the process of negative affect.  The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) helps put things in perspective and bring them into a mental picture.  While the mPFC helps us categorize the world, the downside is that our categorizations can be completely false though they seem real to us.  All these structures taken together help categorize ingroup and outgroup.[i]  Positive attitudes toward an ingroup are supported by the striatum.  Within cultural contexts, when we are told to believe stereotypes and prejudice, the neural circuitry to perpetuate hate gets strengthened and then passed on to the next generation.  Sadly, prejudice can be either conscious or unconscious.  Many people who are full of hate might not realize there is another way because of how they were raised or taught.


[i] “The Neuroscience of Prejudice and Stereotyping,” ResearchGate, accessed July 10, 2018,