Our brain rewards us when we have ideas that are in tune with the ideas of the people around us and matter; similarly, we experience discomfort when this does not happen. This reinforces the internal cohesion of the groups (from soccer teams to political parties) but stresses the relationship between the other groups.
However, what has been studied less is how social influence affects brain activity after some time has passed after we have formed an opinion and learned the opinion of others. That is, if it leaves a long-term trace on our brain activity . To find out, magnetoencephalography has been used.
Exploring Opinion With Magnetoencephalography
To find out what happens to our brain, neuroscientists from the National Research University Higher School of Economics, in Russia, have used magnetoencephalography (MEG), a unique method that allows us to see in detail the activity of the human brain during information processing , because it has a temporal resolution superior to that of traditional fMRI.
Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a method based on the measurement of very weak magnetic fields (several orders of magnitude weaker than the Earth’s magnetic field) induced by electrical activity in the brain.
In the study , 20 women rated their confidence in the faces of strangers in a series of photos. They were then briefed on the collective opinion of a large group of peers on whether or not they should trust these strangers. Sometimes the opinion of the group contradicted the opinion of the participants and, at other times, it agreed with it.
After half an hour, the subjects were asked to re-evaluate their trust in the same strangers. Participants changed their minds about a stranger under the influence of their peers in about 50% of the cases .
In addition, there were changes in his brain activity: ‘traces’ of past disagreements with his peers were discovered. When the subjects re-examined the face of a stranger, after a fraction of a second, their brain pointed out that the last time their personal opinion did not match the assessment given by their peers. Most likely, fixing this signal allows the brain to predict possible conflicts in the future arising from disagreements in order to avoid them , and this probably occurs subconsciously.
Therefore, the opinions of others not only influence our behavior, but also cause long-term changes in the way our brain works . Apparently, the brain not only quickly adapts to the opinions of others, but also begins to perceive information through the eyes of the majority to avoid social conflicts in the future.
Our brain simply transforms and becomes a kind of collective brain . That is why it is so important to conceive external brains that audit our opinions (such as the scientific method) and it is also important that we flee from three of the most toxic people on an ideological level, as you can see in the following video (where you can also see, in a epic finale, the stars that keep us from getting lost in the night):