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Zahra Moradi

MSc Social Cognition MSc Affective Neuroscience

Postdoctoral Researcher

Research Summary

research summary

How does ingroup favouritism affect perception?

What is the neural underpinning of ingroup bias?

How we can manipulate ingroup favouritism to produce empathy for outgroups?

How does self preference relate to ingroup favouritism?

 I am mainly interested in group modulation of perception. Being a member of a group is commonly accompanied by categorizing the “self” and the “others” into ingroups and outgroups. This type of categorization affects our cognition to produce ingroup favoritism.

In my current research I try to explore how deeply ingroup favouritism could permeate perception. I am conducting series of studies using different techniques such as eye tracking and fMRI to explore this matter.

In real life, group identification can have serious consequences because it can modulate the empathy that an individual has towards others, with empathy being stronger for members of own group than for members of an outgroup (Tarrant et al., 2009), reflected also in differences in brain activation (Xu et al., 2009). Recent studies have shown that ingroup favouritism could reach to the point that resulted in “empathy turn off” for the member of an outgroup.  This is an ongoing problem in human societies, with humans committing some of the most hateful acts because of their ingroup favouritism, including acts of discrimination, segregation and even wars and genocides. 

In the later stage of my PhD I hope to manipulate the dark side of ingroup favouritism using intergroup contact. This will be at the heart of my future career. I will try to bridge between social psychology and brain science in order to unravel how belonging to a certain group could affect very simple functions of the brain as well as its complicated functions.

Understanding the neural underpinning of ingroup favouritism is the very fundamental step which paves the way to find more realistic solutions to the problem of intergroup conflict. 

 Since, ingroup favoritism is tightly connected to self-preference I hope to extend my current work to the area of self-preference to get a better understanding of the relation between self and ingroup.

 Currently the Leverhulme Trust supports my research.

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