Peer Pressure Is Brain Hardwired


LOS ANGELES, Sept. 8 (UPI) — A part of the brain associated with rewards showed higher activity when a person wins among peers, compared to winning alone, U.S. researchers say.

Georgio Coricelli of the University of Southern California led a multinational team of researchers that measured activity in the regions of the brain associated with rewards and with social reasoning while participants in the study entered in lotteries.

The researchers found that the striatum, a part of the brain associated with rewards, showed higher activity when a participant beat a peer in the lottery, as opposed to when the participant won while alone. The medial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with social reasoning, was more activated as well.

Those participants who won in a social setting tended to engage in more risky and competitive behavior in subsequent lotteries.

“These findings suggest that the brain is equipped with the ability to detect and encode social signals, make social signals salient, and then, use these signals to optimize future behavior,” Coricelli says in a statement.

In private environments, losing can more easily be life-threatening, so with no social support network in place, a bad gamble can spell doom, Coricelli says. On the other hand, in group environments, rewards tend to be winner-takes-all, Coricelli says.

Their study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.