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How do friends shift our views?

india Updated: Mar 07, 2011 17:17 IST

Conforming to others' views can cause a real shift in your own opinion, say scientists.

To come to this conclusion, Jamil Zaki at Harvard University and colleagues asked men to rate how attractive they found a series of photos of women''s faces, reports the New Scientist.

The men were then given the average rating for each photo, said to be determined by a previous group. In reality, these ratings were randomly generated by a computer.

Thirty minutes later, the participants reassessed the same photos while having their brains scanned using fMRI.

As expected, the men's ratings changed to match the consensus scores more closely.

However, Zaki's team found that if the participant decided a woman was more attractive than they first thought, there was a spike of activity in the orbitofrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens; if they decided she was not as pretty, activity decreased in these areas.

Previous research has shown that the higher the activity in these brain regions, the more a person values a certain stimulus.

In other words, the researchers argue, the participants were not just modifying their appraisals for the sake of appearances: the so-called average results had genuinely changed their opinion of the photos.

The work will appear in Psychological Science.