The Amygdala Response to Fear Essay

The Amygdala Response to Fear Essay

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The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience examines an article on the amygdala response to fear faces and the way it is different between one’s own culture and other cultures. The amygdala is specialized in detecting threat and includes fearful facial expressions. The researchers of this study hypothesized that amygdala response is greater in individuals of their own culture. This study was conducted on both native Japanese participants and Caucasians in the United States. Functional brain imaging was acquired at two neuro-imaging facilities. Japanese participants were scanned at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Okazaki, Japan. Caucasian participants were scanned at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging in Charlestown, MA.
Previously, neuro-imaging studies have only observed the amygdala’s response to emotional face stimuli of the same cultural environment. This study went further and tested the amygdala’s response to participants of different cultures. In the study there were 22 adult participants: 12 native Japanese living in Japan (6 men and 6 women) and 10 Caucasians living in the United States (5 men and 5 women). The stimuli used to arouse the amygdala’s reactivity were 80 digitized grayscale pictures of faces that had different expressions. The facial expressions were of the four: neutral, happy, angry, and fearful. The photos were of 20 Japanese and 20 Caucasian men and women taken from the two groups. Participants were tested based on their own self-identified culture. The experimenters who conducted the studies used the participant’s native language. The independent variable in the study was the faces from the different cultures and the dependent variable was the amygdala’...

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... I learned that human beings are able to differentiate expressions between cultures. The common expression to fear something or feel threatened is easily detectable. This is important in social psychology, where people are more likely to help others out in situations. People may have more amygdala reactivity to faces of their own race because they feel more threatened when another individual is harmed or threatened. Studies in social psychology show that people sympathesize more with their own races, which explains the great reactivity in the amygdala.

Chiao, J. Y., Iidaka, T., Gordon, H. L., Nogawa, J., Bar, M., Aminoff, E., Sadato, N., & Ambaday, M. (2008). Cultural specificity in amygdala response to fear faces. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(12), 2167-2174. Retrieved from

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