Wondering why some people adhere to their political beliefs even when confronted with counter-evidence? Neuroscientists who studied the brain activity of 40 individuals using functional MRI noted that neural mechanisms govern the tendency of people to stick to their political beliefs notwithstanding contrary evidence presented.
The findings underscore the key role emotions play in belief-change resistance and present insights into the neural systems involved in how people maintain beliefs and reason out even when confronted with counter-evidence. The study findings are also relevant as they offer greater understanding on how people respond to political news stories.
It turns out, individuals who tended to be most resistant to altering their beliefs had more activity in their amygdalae (the pair of almond-shaped areas near the brain’s center) and the insular cortex vis-a-vis people who were more willing to change their minds. The study findings of lead author Jonas Kaplan, an assistant research professor of psychology at University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute; co-author Sarah Gimbel of the Brain and Creativity Institute; and Sam Harris, a neuroscientist for the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Project Reason, were published in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports.
The Workings of the Brain
The areas of the brain cited have been linked to thinking about who we are, Kaplan stated. The study had some limitations — participants were more likely to change their beliefs for non-political statements than for political statements.
Nonetheless, it helps enlighten people who are perplexed on why certain individuals think and react the way they do, especially when it comes to upholding their political beliefs, notwithstanding valid evidence running counter to those beliefs.