When we change our opinions, what happens in the brain?

When we change our opinions, what happens in the brain? ...

LMU researchers highlight what happens in the human brain when we try to influence other people or when we ourselves are infected by others.

This is an example of informational social influence when people modify their opinions because they want to be socially accepted. However, research suggests normative social influences. Previously, it was unclear which neural mechanisms were used in these two situations.

This topic is particularly relevant in today''s society of social media and opinion manipulation, as many people rely on others'' opinions to form their own opinions, according to Dr. Bahador Bahrami of the LMU Department of Psychology.

he characterized brain activities that occur if individuals are socially influenced to change their opinions. The study has now been published in PLOS Biology. It reveals that our brain works by the same neural equipment it uses to analyze its own internal and subjective conflicts and summarizes Bahrami. A specific area of the brain takes two factors into account: how confident we are in our beliefs and how polite we are obligated to be towards others.

A study combines computer-based game and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Participants in the experiment must remember the position of a dot displayed on a screen. They gave confidence values for their answers. However, they were permitted to revise their assumptions after seeing the answer of a computer or of a virtual partner to whom they had been introduced before the experiment. In reality, all answers were provided by computers.

The Bahramis team tracked the brain activity of all test subjects during the game using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This non-invasive technique allows areas of the brain with high activity that is to say, with high oxygen consumption to be displayed with high spatial resolution.

People tended to modify their answers when their confidence was low, regardless of whether or not their partner was human. This informational influence was controlled by activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) of the brain, a region of the cerebral cortex.

If tested subjects received confirmation from their communication partner, they showed respect for other opinions. Moreover, this normative influence arose only when they believed that their partners were human, as did the correlation with dACC activity.

According to Bahrami, the researchers wanted to know what their findings would be for AI applications that are becoming more widespread in all kinds of situations. We established that the human brain only feels the need for politeness when it is interacting with other people rather than with a seemingly artificial (albeit intelligent) agent. This is, for future projects.

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