Seeing really is believing

February 1, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Want to know why sports fans get so worked up when they think the referee has wrongly called their team's pass forward, their player offside, or their serve as a fault?

Research from The University of Queensland's School of Psychology and the Queensland Brain Institute found people actually see their team's actions in a different way than they see those of other teams.

The study, which was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, randomly divided into blue and red teams and let them judge the relative speeds of hand actions performed by the team they support, and their , in a competitive situation.

Lead Dr Pascal Molenberghs said results showed the brain responded differently when people saw actions of their team members compared to the opposing side, but that this was not as simple as a in opinion.

“Our study found that people quickly identified with their group and that they consistently judged their own team's actions as being a fraction of a second faster than those of non-team members, when in reality the actions were identical,” Dr Molenberghs said.

The research team, which also included PhD candidate Veronika Halász, Professor Jason Mattingley, Dr Eric Vanman and Associate Professor Ross Cunnington, then used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to assess each participant's brain activity during the experiments.

“We explored two possible explanations for the bias: either people actually see their team's actions differently, or people see the actions as the same but make a conscious decision that their own team was faster,” he said.

“We found that the people who showed a bias in favour of their own team had a different brain response when they were watching the actions of team members compared to the actions of non-team members.

“But crucially, we found no difference in brain response during the conscious decision making part of the experiments.

“What this suggests is that we unconsciously perceive the actions of teams we are affiliated with differently than those performed by other teams.

“So contrary to common belief, people seem to be unaware that they are biased towards their own team.

“It's not simply that we decide to favour the actions of our team because we think they are the best. Rather, because we feel an affiliation with the team, our brain processes the actions of own team members more favourably.

“So next time you think an umpire has made an unfair call against your team, bear in mind that your team allegiance could be affecting the way your is processing what you saw.”
Dr Molenberghs said the results had broader implications.

“Our findings could help explain discrimination between all kinds of groups - including those of race, gender and nationality - because our study suggests that we see the of non-group members differently and what we see is what we believe.”

Dr Molenberghs plans to build on the findings by conducting similar experiments with members of real teams to see how this affects the outcomes.

More information on the study is available here.

Explore further: Perceived intentions influence brain response

Related Stories

Perceived intentions influence brain response

August 11, 2010

People generally like to see generous people rewarded and selfish people punished. Now, new research reveals a critical link between how we perceive another's intentions and our evaluation of their behavior. The study, published ...

How child molesters justify their actions

April 8, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Men who sexually abuse children generally blame external factors to explain their actions and diminish their guilt. “Every reason they give is a cognitive distortion,” says Sarah Paquette, a student ...

People behave socially and 'well' even without rules: study

January 16, 2012

Fundamentally people behave in a social and rather compassionate and "good" way rather than aggressively, even without specified rules. That is the result of a study from the Institute for Science of Complex Systems at the ...

Recommended for you

Sleep makes relearning faster and longer-lasting

August 22, 2016

Getting some sleep in between study sessions may make it easier to recall what you studied and relearn what you've forgotten, even 6 months later, according to new findings from Psychological Science, a journal of the Association ...

Psychosis associated with low levels of physical activity

August 25, 2016

A large international study of more than 200,000 people in nearly 50 countries has revealed that people with psychosis engage in low levels of physical activity, and men with psychosis are over two times more likely to miss ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jscroft
5 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2012
So what happens if the ref has a preference?
TAz00
not rated yet Feb 01, 2012
Then they find another one who dosn't

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.