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Bias Bites Back: Racial prejudice may sap mental control

Racial bigotry creates undeniable hardships for its targets. Such prejudice may cut two ways, though. A provocative new study suggests that intolerance undermines the mental resources of biased individuals when they interact with those whom they deem inferior.

White people who hold biased feelings toward blacks have to work to control their thoughts and behaviors during interracial encounters, say psychologist Jennifer A. Richeson of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and her coworkers. This social strategy depletes the limited pool of mental resources available for monitoring and using various types of information, the scientists propose.

Their investigation appears in the December Nature Neuroscience.

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