March 19, 2008


Politically Correct: Why Great (and Not So Great) Minds Think Alike: A new study shows how people get inside one anothers' heads (Nikhil Swaminathan, 3/19/08, Scientific American)

Have you ever wondered why you seem to understand some people—even if you know relatively little about them? It turns out there may be a biological reason why it's easier to walk a mile in some people's shoes but not in others'. Researchers report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that brain scans suggest people project their own values and feelings onto others if there is even the slightest evidence that the pair have something in common.

Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland say the reason is that nerve cells, which fire during self-evaluation, also swing into action when people are asked to predict how another person might feel—if, that is, they believe the person would act similarly to them. If, however, they are convinced their peers are not of a same mind, so to speak, those neurons remain inactive.

They say the new finding paves the way for research on how stereotypes may grow from the tiniest seeds into major misconceptions.

"It might help explain why people who learn some small piece of information about some other person," says study co-author Adrianna Jenkins, a psychology graduate student at Harvard, "may have difficulty communicating with that person on a variety of topics."'re kidding yourself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 19, 2008 7:04 AM
Comments for this post are closed.