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Individualistic Values Moderate Neural Responses to Social Exclusion Among African American Respondents: An FMRI Study

Rengin B. Firat (Korn Ferry Institute, USA)

Advances in Group Processes

ISBN: 978-1-80455-154-7, eISBN: 978-1-80455-153-0

Publication date: 27 October 2022



This chapter seeks to investigate the ways individualistic versus collectivistic values moderate neural responses to social exclusion among African American and White respondents. The author hypothesized that the vmPFC – a key brain region for emotion regulation – would correspond to collectivistic value moderation and the dlPFC – the cognitive control center of the brain – would be associated with individualistic value moderation.


This study used a virtual ball tossing game (Cyberball), where 17 African American and 11 White participants were excluded or included with ball tosses, while inside an fMRI scanner. Before the start of each round the participants were primed with individualism, collectivism or a comparison condition.


Results showed that (1) African Americans showed stronger neural responses to exclusion and (2) offered support for the hypothesis that the dlPFC showed greater activation in African Americans (compared to Whites) when they were primed with individualism values during exclusion. There was no support for the collectivism hypothesis.

Research limitations/Implications

Research limitations included a relatively small sample size (N = 28), a comparison of only two racial groups and that the partners in the game were virtual (pre-programmed by the experimenter).

Practical Implications

This research offers an empirical framework for sociologists seeking to apply social theories into neurological studies.

Social Implications

Identifying effective coping strategies for historically oppressed racial groups.

Originality/Value of Paper

The chapter is original for demonstrating the moderating effects of values on neural responses to exclusion for the first time and by offering a novel neurosociological framework.




The author thanks Linzie Taylor and Britni Wright for their research assistance in collecting the fMRI data, Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Program which is funded by the National Institutes of Health grant R25GM109442 and Georgia State University Research Services & Administration for the research funds.


Firat, R.B. (2022), "Individualistic Values Moderate Neural Responses to Social Exclusion Among African American Respondents: An FMRI Study", Kalkhoff, W., Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 39), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 155-186.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Rengin B. Firat. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited