Friday, July 15, 2005

What Other People Say May Change What You See

Interesting New York Times article that looks at the impact of social pressure on the brain. It appears that social pressure can actually make you see things that aren't there.

If social conformity was a result of conscious decision making, they reasoned, they should see changes in areas of the forebrain that deal with monitoring conflicts, planning and other higher-order mental activities.

But if the subjects' social conformity stemmed from changes in perception, there should be changes in posterior brain areas dedicated to vision and spatial perception.

In fact, the researchers found that when people went along with the group on wrong answers, activity increased in the right intraparietal sulcus, an area devoted to spatial awareness, Dr. Berns said.
And I like the way the author sums up the implications:
If other people's views can actually affect how someone perceives the external world, then truth itself is called into question.

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