When two people talk about issues that can generate different points of view – a very frequent case – they can agree or not and each of these two situations corresponds to the activation of brain areas different, both in the listening condition and in the one in which we speak. Perhaps also for this reason that it is so difficult to reconcile different points of view.
This was discovered by a group of American and British researchers led by Joy Hirsch of the Brain Function Laboratory of the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, through a curious experiment. About forty people were selected on the basis of them beliefs deeply rooted in potentially conflicting issues, such as the legalization of soft drugs or the recognition of same-sex marriage as a civil right. Then people were placed in pairs in a sort of discussion arena, letting them discuss freely. All this took place under the control of a technique for detecting brain activity, the so-called “functional spectroscopy in the near infrared”, to see how the various brain areas were activated when the subjects agreed or when they did not agree.

When the brains synchronize

The technique works by detecting blood flow in the cerebral cortex, an indicator of its level of activation. It thus emerged that when people agree in the discussion, some sensory areas of the brain are activated, such as the visual one, and other areas responsible for articulated thought functions. But when people disagree, things get more complex. There is synchronicity between brains when people agree, while when they don’t this sort of brain coupling jumps, says Joy Hirsch. Disagreement needs to mobilize more cognitive and emotional resources.


March 15, 2021 (change March 15, 2021 | 21:12)

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