Some of you may have encountered a popular meme, shared by many celebrities and other people in the spotlight. Well in this post, I wanted to fix it just a bit:
We’ve seen similar corrections to false PC memes, like the one at the left. But the above meme on the “racist brain” is clearly false, not the least reason being known group variation in average brain size (Beals, Smith, and Dodd 1984, image source here):
But we also now know that brain structure (such as its surface topography) differs considerably by race (Fan et al 2015):
Indeed, brain structure delectably varies between ethnicities within a race, such as between different European groups (Bakken, Dale, and Schork, 2011). As Fan et al put it:
Here, we demonstrate that the three-dimensional geometry of cortical surface is highly predictive of individuals’ genetic ancestry in West Africa, Europe, East Asia, and America, even though their genetic background has been shaped by multiple waves of migratory and admixture events. The geometry of the cortical surface contains richer information about ancestry than the areal variability of the cortical surface, independent of total brain volumes. Besides explaining more ancestry variance than other brain imaging measurements, the 3D geometry of the cortical surface further characterizes distinct regional patterns in the folding and gyrification.
In our group’s previous study, we found that area measures of cortical surface and total brain volumes of individuals of European descent in the United States correlate significantly with their ancestral geographic locations in Europe
Go ahead and circulate this corrected meme whenever you encounter the original false one. 😉