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: Researchers can predict future actions from human brain activity

Related Stories

Researchers can predict future actions from human brain activity

June 29, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- Bringing the real world into the brain scanner, researchers at The University of Western Ontario from The Centre for Brain and Mind can now determine the action a person was planning, mere moments before ...

Can companies, political groups or organizations have a single mind?

December 5, 2011
News of employee misconduct always creates a whirlwind for the companies involved — think of Enron, Goldman Sachs and UBS, for example. But are these firms responsible for the actions of their employees? Or do individual ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Probing how Americans think about mental life

October 20, 2017
When Stanford researchers asked people to think about the sensations and emotions of inanimate or non-human entities, they got a glimpse into how those people think about mental life.

Itsy bitsy spider: Fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us

October 19, 2017
Snakes and spiders evoke fear and disgust in many people, even in developed countries where hardly anybody comes into contact with them. Until now, there has been debate about whether this aversion is innate or learnt. Scientists ...

Dutch courage—Alcohol improves foreign language skills

October 18, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University and King's College London, shows that bilingual speakers' ability to speak a second ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Study suggests psychedelic drugs could reduce criminal behavior

October 18, 2017
Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin (often called magic mushrooms), LSD and mescaline (found in peyote) are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior, according to new research from investigators ...

Taking probiotics may reduce postnatal depression

October 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Otago have found evidence that a probiotic given in pregnancy can help prevent or treat symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.

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.