The influence of race on behavior and the neural correlates of expectancy during an economic decision game
I investigated how another person's race influences resource sharing during a social economic decision-making game that depends on trustworthiness. Seventy-eight university students played a behavioral economics Trust Game with players of different races while EEG was recorded. I predicted that negative stereotype-based expectancies of Black players would cause participants to be more trusting of White than Black players, and also that these expectancies would be evident in the event-related potential (ERP) component, RewP, which is sensitive to expectancy violations (or prediction errors). Results largely conformed to predictions, in that White participants shared more money with White players than with Black players; this effect was weaker (and not statistically significant) when data from the full sample, including 11 non-White participants, was used in the model. This preferential treatment of White players was more pronounced in individuals who held more biased racial attitudes. Additionally, RewP was greater for feedback from Black relative to White players on trials when offer amounts were higher than average, implying that when feedback was most salient (because more money was at stake), it was more unexpected when Black players reciprocated generosity, and less expected when they did not. Exploratory analyses of an ERP component associated with racial categorization of faces, the P2, was larger to Black versus White faces, as in previous studies. Of interest here, the race effect in P2 amplitude was moderated by racial attitudes, such that less-biased individuals showed larger race differences in the P2, suggesting that these participants allocated more attention to social categories in an attempt to respond in a less biased way. These novel results were not entirely consistent with my original hypotheses, and thus more research is necessary to replicate and help explain the present results.
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