Physical characteristics such as skin tone

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A note for Lesson no. 7, "Our Brains Can Create Reality," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 121‌ is:

The concept of “race” often includes physical characteristics such as skin tone.

The appendix adds:

Skin pigmentation has evolved and re-evolved in relation to the amount of ultraviolet light in the environment.

See these references.[1][2][3][4]

For an accessible briefing, see Bridget Alex’s article.[5] The bottom line is: the genes for skin tone are highly variable and continually evolving (even now), and there is no support for the idea that racial groups are biologically distinct.


  1. Jablonski, Nina G. 2012. Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.
  2. Jablonski, Nina G., and George Chaplin. 2010. “Human Skin Pigmentation as an Adaptation to UV Radiation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (Supplement 2): 8962–8968.
  3. Quillen, Ellen E., Heather L. Norton, Esteban J. Parra, Frida Lona‐Durazo, Khai C. Ang, Florin Mircea Illiescu, Laurel N. Pearson, Mark D. Shriver, Tina Lasisi, Omer Gokcumen, Izzy Starr, Yen-Lung Lin, Alicia R. Martin, and Nina G. Jablonski. 2019. “Shades of Complexity: New Perspectives on the Evolution and Genetic Architecture of Human Skin.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 168: 4–26.
  4. Crawford, Nicholas G., Derek E. Kelly, Matthew E. B. Hansen, Marcia H. Beltrame, Shaohua Fan, Shanna L. Bowman, Ethan Jewett, Alessia Ranciaro, Simon Thompson, Yancy Lo, et al. 2017. “Loci Associated with Skin Pigmentation Identified in African Populations.” Science 358 (6365): eaan8433.
  5. Alex, Bridget. 2019. “Why Did Darker and Lighter Human Skin Colors Evolve?Discover, January 28.