Neuroscience and Race

756px-Meyers_b11_s0476aDaniel Lende in Neuroanthropology:

I want to highlight four questions that come up for me in thinking about the neuroanthropology of race.

*How does experience get under the skin?

*How do human judgments, decisions and interactions get instantiated in the brain?

*What role does human variation play in how brains work?

*What role does neuroscience play in reinforcing or questioning the use of race in science and society?

I’ve made all of these questions more general than just about “race.” I do that largely because these sorts of questions come up with all sorts of social phenomena – gender, class, immigrant status, and so forth. But that step back into generality and into dispassioned observation is, ironically enough, a step back into my own white privileged space. I’m protected here – it’s about them, rather than me. And that is a major part of the problem. That is how “race” often works today.

Question #1: How does experience get under the skin?

The first point to make here is that experience, like biology, is varied. It doesn’t match up with our pre-established categories. But we can look for patterns of experience and see if those correspond to changes in human development, biological structure and function, and health and educational outcomes.

So, as a first pass, I’d say this question boils down to three things: (1) characterizing lived experience; (2) examining the interface between experience and development; and (3) looking at outcomes.

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