Department Colloquium: Dr. William Cunningham

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Dr. William Cunningham, University of Toronto
The inevitability of prejudice?

Abstract
Early research from social cognitive neuroscience bolstered an already pessimistic view of intergroup cognition and emotion. Brain responses to outgroup members occurred quickly (within 100s of milliseconds) and to stimuli that people reported not being able to see. Although control was possible, the brain signals associated with control had later ironic negative side effects for cognitive control. In this talk, I will review the theory and evidence that appears to support an ‘inevitability of prejudice’ view, but also present new(er) data that may allow for a more optimistic view on prejudice and the reduction of group bias. Specifically, I will suggest that group categorization is flexible and dynamic, and that the reconstrual of social group membership may allow for changes in automatic processing in social perception and evaluation without the cognitive costs of suppression.

William Cunningham‘s research takes a social cognitive neuroscience approach and explores the cognitive and motivational processes underlying emotional responses. His main area of focus is the affective evaluations of people and objects that guide thought and behaviour.


Annually the Department of Psychology hosts a Colloquia Series throughout the academic year.