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YPIE Scientist: Emily Baafi and Mary Bediako

Research: Measuring Brain Wave Activity and its Correlation to Racial Bias in Adolescents

Awards: WESEF 2023 Participant, Somers Science Fair 2022, Team Project Emily and Mary

Mentor: Charlotte Kleiman

Research Location: Yonkers, NY


Individuals form implicit biases through unconsciously developing assumption, while explicit biases result from conscious decisions. Racial bias is a type of bias that affects people today, which refers to opinions or preconceptions that influence an individual's understanding of another racial out-group. Racial prejudices arise in areas of the brain that interfere with a person's brain wave activity. A prior study done by Dr.Izuma et al. involved individuals from two racial backgrounds. While looking at photos of a racial in-group and a racial out-group, participants were placed under an fMRI scanner to examine evidence of racial prejudice in the amygdala. In contrast, this study examined the brain wave activity of young people from four racial groups. Participants first had to complete an explicit bias test involving stereotypical racist statements. After this, they listened to meditative music to increase their alpha brain waves activity. An electroencephalography (EEG) device was then placed on their heads while they viewed images of young and old from four ethnic backgrounds (White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian). Participants' implicit biases were indicated by higher beta brainwave activity, which reflects fear and racial bias. Based on the findings, the explicit bias test scores for all four racial groups were low collectively. Although each participant's explicit bias test score was relatively low, their implicit bias test scores inconsistently increased when the images were presented. One group elicited higher beta brainwave activity than the others, while the two groups remained roughly the same. The participants' response to the implicit bias test was significant because it demonstrated racial prejudice in adolescents compared to their response to the explicit bias test. Positive interpersonal relationships can flourish without restricting people's opportunities through these findings.

About this Scientist:

Emily Baafi is a junior attending Yonkers High School. As a young African American the reality of racial injustice is no surprise for her. This is why she is so passionate on the issue. With her partner, Mary Bediako, Emily works on a science reading project that aims to shed light the existence of racial bias in adolescents. She hopes not only to impact her community but the whole world.

Mary Bediako is a Junior attending Yonkers High School, intending to pursue her career in nursing. She finds interest and passion learning about social injustice and racial inequities present in society. She works with her friend Emily Baafi on an ongoing research project that sheds light on the presence of racial bias in adolescents. With these interests she hopes to inspire and and make a positive impact in her community.

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