The neuroscience of group membership

Samantha Morrison, Jean Decety, Pascal Molenberghs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The present study aimed to uncover the neural activity associated with specific in-group and out-group word related stimuli, to examine the neuroanatomical basis of group membership concept representation, and investigate to what extent neural processes represent in-group differently from out-group . Participants brain activity was measured with functional MRI while they had to categorize social, in-group and out-group words and non-social, living and non-living words. The results showed that a network of brain regions previously identified as the social brain , including the cortical midline structures, tempo-parietal junction and the anterior temporal gyrus showed enhanced activation for social words versus non-social words. Crucially, the processing of in-group words compared to the out-group words activated a specific network including the ventral medial prefrontal and anterior and dorsal cingulate cortex. These regions correspond to a neural network previously identified as the personal self . Our results suggest that the social and personal self are closely related and that we derive our self image from the groups we belong to
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2114 - 2120
Number of pages7
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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