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Friday, 12 October 2012 09:56

Being in the company of unpleasant people can slow down your brain

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It’s irritating enough being around someone you don’t like. Now, to make matters worse, scientists have discovered that bad company could also affect your brain.

Whether you like someone or not can affect how your brain processes their actions, according to new research from the University of Southern California, reports daily mail.

Most of the time, watching someone else move causes a ‘mirroring’ effect — that is, the parts of our brains responsible for movement are activated by watching someone else in action.

But being around someone you don’t like can send this process awry – you might think the person is moving more slowly than they actually are, for example.

Past research has shown that race or physical similarity can influence brain processes, and we tend to have more empathy for people who look more like us.

However this study took differences in race, age and gender into account – everyone who took part was a Jewish man.

The researchers split the men into two groups – half were presented as neo-Nazis, with the aim of making them disliked, the others were presented as likable and open-minded. 

When the men viewed someone they disliked, the part of their brain that was otherwise activated in ‘mirroring’ — the right ventral premotor cortex — had a different pattern of activity for the disliked individuals compared to the likeable ones.

But the difference was only spotted when the annoying person was actually present – there was no difference in brain activity when the men watched videos of the people they disliked.

‘Even something as basic as how we process visual stimuli of a movement is modulated by social factors, such as our interpersonal relationships and social group membership,’ said Mona Sobhani, lead author of the paper.

'These findings lend important support for the notion that social factors influence our perceptual processing.'

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Read 6044 times Last modified on Friday, 12 October 2012 09:59

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