First impressions count (literally)

October 5, 2010

It looks like first impressions are all about ‘what’s in it for me’. Those pesky neuroscientists have been at it again and have identified two areas of the brain that fire up when we’re dealing with impression-relevant information. They are the amygdala, which seems to have a hand in all sorts of stuff, but this time it’s to do with trust; and the posterior cingulate cortex, which is your very own internal accountant, concerned with economic decision-making and the evaluation of rewards. The upshot is that before someone has even had a chance to sneeze you’ve checked out whether they are of value to you. A bit depressing isn’t it? However it might help to explain social climbing…

Want it straight from the horse’s mouth?  Here’s the reference:

Schiller, D., Freeman, J.B., Mitchell, J.P, Uleman, J.S. & Phelps, A. (2009). A Neural Mechanism of First Impressions. Nature Neuroscience, 12, pp. 508-514.

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You should meet my brain, its got quite a personality…

July 5, 2010

This is really fascinating. In a recent study using MRI technology researchers have found evidence to support a connection between the ‘volumes’ of different parts of the brain and the Big Five personality factors. After controlling for age, sex, and overall size of brain they have found a link between Extraversion and the volume of the medial orbito-frontal cortex (the bit that deals with rewards); Neuroticism and areas that process threat, punishment and negative affect; Agreeableness and the parts that deal with information about the mental states of other people; and Conscientiousness and the lateral pre-frontal cortex (the bit involved in planning and the voluntary control of behaviour). There appeared to be no associations with Openness, which in some ways is even more interesting as there is anyway an ongoing debate about the interpretation of this factor. Putting aside chicken-and-egg arguments about how the relative volumes of different parts of the brain arise, are we looking at the dawn of a genuine ‘personality neuroscience’ and (brave) new ways of understanding what makes us who we are?

DeYoung, C.G., Hirsh, J.B., Shane, M.S., Papademetris, N.R. and Gray, J.R. (2010). Testing Predictions from Personality Neuroscience: Brain Structure and the Big Five. Psychological Science, 21(6), pp.820-828.


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