Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that social factors have a direct effect on how people process reality. The fact that a person likes or dislikes someone actually influences their perceptual processing, according to research published in PLOS ONE.
‘Even something as basic as how we process visual stimuli of a movement is modulated by social factors, such as our interpersonal relationships and social group membership,’ said Mona Sobhani, lead author of the paper. This may result in two people perceiving a movement differently.
The researchers faced a group of 17 Jewish male subjects with videos of people who had already identified as neo-Nazis or just average individuals, while undergoing fMRI. The results showed that the motor related regions of the brain are ‘modulated by likability even when watching a simple action such as reaching for a cup,’ as described in the paper.
Though limited in scope, the study ‘lends important support for the notion that social factors influence our perceptual processing’, said Sobhani.
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Mona Sobhani, Glenn R. Fox, Jonas Kaplan, & Lisa Aziz-Zadeh (2012). Interpersonal Liking Modulates Motor-Related Neural Regions PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046809