Are we born racist? Q&A with psychology professor Mendoza-Denton


UC Berkeley psychology professor Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton (Greater Good Science Center photo)

“Research shows that human beings have a natural proclivity to make distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ ” says UC Berkeley psychology professor Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton. And that “natural proclivity has a survival value.”

But that proclivity carries heavy costs, on all sides, he adds in a new Q&A on racism posted this week on the Berkeley Wellness website ( The interview comes at a time of national soul-searching about racism, prompted by a wave of racist incidents, including the recent mass shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

Mendoza-Denton is well known for his research on bias and recently co-edited a book called Are We Born Racist?: New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology. He is a contributor to the Berkeley Blog and a faculty advisor for Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center,

Read the full Q&A on

Read other NewsCenter stories about Mendoza-Denton’s work:

Campus diversity efforts explore stigma, prejudice and ‘white guilt’

Social scientists build case for survival of the kindest