Busted Halo

In Virtue/Vice, Dr. Christine B. Whelan blogs about news, books, scientific and psychological research and her general musings about virtue and vice in our everyday lives.


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March 2nd, 2011

The Opinions of Others


opinions-others-flashA few weeks back, I blogged about new research that found, when searching for a relationship partner, we tend to gravitate toward people who are like us — because we’re looking for approval from our peer-group… and perfect strangers. The conclusion was that social information cues matter: We don’t live in a vacuum, and community matters. Researchers in England and Denmark just released even more research to support the idea that the opinions of others matter.

Reports medicalnewstoday.com

Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) in collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark have found that the ‘reward’ area of the brain is activated when people agree with our opinions. The study, published today in the journal Current Biology, suggests that scientists may be able to predict how much people can be influenced by the opinions of others on the basis of the level of activity in the reward area.

We all like to think we’re mavericks, even though decades of experiments have shown that humans are often more like lemmings. What’s most interesting about this research is

  1. That brain scans seem to be able to see where the reward area for agreement “lives” and
  2. That it reminds us, once again, of the importance of good influences from our friends, families and our communities.

Do you have spring goals that you want to achieve? Surround yourself with people who will support you. Want to deepen your faith? Find a group that values spiritual seeking as a goal, and their positive opinions of your efforts will bolster you. And, on the flip side, if you’re always fighting about core issues with a friend, resolution will light up a lot more reward areas of your brain than constant bickering.

Bottom line: Opposites may attract on TV, but when it comes to success, find a team that will back you up every step of the way.

The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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