How our brains are biologically tuned to be influenced by confident people

December 13, 2016
brain
Credit: public domain

Scientists have uncovered that the added influence of confident people may be down to our biology.

By studying , academics discerned that are geared for placing added value on opinions of confident people.

The research, published today in the Journal of Neuroscience and led by University of Sussex psychologist Dr Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn, pinpointed a region of the brain that responds to confident (but not unconfident) opinions of others when making decisions.

The scientists examined the active brains of 23 and found that expectations of success could be influenced by three key elements: , learning what the majority people believe and, most importantly, learning what confident people believe.

The first two had widespread effects on the brain's reward system, which predicts how satisfied we will be when we choose something. Opinions of confident people, however, had an additional effect on this reward system – and only in a part of the brain that appeared late in our evolution.

Discussing the research, Dr Campbell-Meiklejohn said:

"This additional effect seems likely to be the mechanism by which the confidence of others can give us reassurance in our actions. Our findings suggest that social transmission of beliefs and preferences is not as straightforward as copying the person next to you. Other elements are clearly at play during the decision-making process."

The researchers observed that this extra activity occurs next door to a brain area that helps us consider what others are thinking. This is important for the next step, which is to figure out what the brain is actually doing when we observe confident people.

"We can now consider that this part of the may be inferring, correctly or incorrectly, the quality of the confident person's information before deciding whether or not to let that person change our beliefs," adds Dr Campbell-Meiklejohn.

"In today's political climate in particular, we should be aware that when facts aren't clear, we may be biologically tuned to allow seemingly confident people to hold more sway on our own beliefs."

The study was completed in conjunction with researchers at Aarhus University, University College London and Princeton University.

Explore further: Heading for a fall: Neuroscientists reveal how overconfidence can lead to poor decision making

More information: D. Campbell-Meiklejohn et al. Independent Neural Computation of Value from Other People's Confidence, Journal of Neuroscience (2016). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4490-15.2016

Related Stories

Heading for a fall: Neuroscientists reveal how overconfidence can lead to poor decision making

August 15, 2016
The link between overconfidence and poor decision making is under the spotlight in an international study by scientists from Monash University and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig.

Brain study shows why some people are more in tune with what they want

December 9, 2012
Wellcome Trust researchers have discovered how the brain assesses confidence in its decisions. The findings explain why some people have better insight into their choices than others.

How reward and daytime sleep boost learning

October 16, 2015
A new study suggests that receiving rewards as you learn can help cement new facts and skills in your memory, particularly when combined with a daytime nap.

Researchers find a brain link between affective understanding and interpersonal attraction

April 5, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with members from a large number of institutions in Germany has conducted a study that has revealed more about the way interpersonal attraction works in the brain. In their paper published ...

Missed connections: As people age, memory-related brain activity loses cohesion

November 23, 2016
Groups of brain regions that synchronize their activity during memory tasks become smaller and more numerous as people age, according to a study published in PLOS Computational Biology.

Recommended for you

Intermittent fasting found to increase cognitive functions in mice

December 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—The Daily Mail spoke with the leader of a team of researchers with the National Institute on Aging in the U.S. and reports that they have found that putting mice on a diet consisting of eating nothing every ...

Neuroscientists show deep brain waves occur more often during navigation and memory formation

December 12, 2017
UCLA neuroscientists are the first to show that rhythmic waves in the brain called theta oscillations happen more often when someone is navigating an unfamiliar environment, and that the more quickly a person moves, the more ...

How Zika virus induces congenital microcephaly

December 12, 2017
Epidemiological studies show that in utero fetal infection with the Zika virus (ZIKV) may lead to microcephaly, an irreversible congenital malformation of the brain characterized by an incomplete development of the cerebral ...

Presurgical imaging may predict whether epilepsy surgery will work

December 11, 2017
Surgery to remove a part of the brain to give relief to patients with epilepsy doesn't always result in complete seizure relief, but statisticians at Rice University have developed a method for integrating neuroimaging scans ...

Selecting sounds: How the brain knows what to listen to

December 11, 2017
How is it that we are able—without any noticeable effort—to listen to a friend talk in a crowded café or follow the melody of a violin within an orchestra?

Scientists discover new way to help nerve regeneration in spinal cord injury

December 11, 2017
There is currently no cure for spinal cord injury or treatment to help nerve regeneration so therapies offering intervention are limited. People with severe spinal cord injuries can remain paralysed for life and this is often ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

julianpenrod
not rated yet Dec 13, 2016
Yet more of a demonstration of the lack of validity of those who control many people's opinions. Among other things, ti's also declared that something as simple as pointing can make children automatically believe something is true. An example of the manifestation in this article. On another website, I gave demonstrations of the flaws and failures in "evolution". To "counter" me, "evolution" devotees "challenged", "What's your explanation?" If you say you have none, they automatically "accept" "evolution"! Their ethic, that, if something has a lot of doggerel with a lot of words and is confidently, even arrogantly, presented, they will engage in what they think is "believing" it.

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.