- In one study, researchers looked at participants’ brain MRIs as they changed their minds.
- The researchers report that there was different brain activity between people who changed their minds based on new information and those who did so for social acceptance.
- Experts say the research is valuable because it highlights the importance of being prepared to change your mind based on new information and opinions.
If your confidence is low, you are more likely to conform to what other people think.
That’s according to a new study published in the journal PLOS Biology that looked at the types of activity that occur in the brain when a person is socially influenced to change their mind.
Social influence like this is generally classified into two forms: informational or normative.
“Informational influence is when we change our beliefs to those of others in order to maximize accuracy. This process is likely to be governed by our sense of trust in our own initial beliefs,” the authors wrote. ‘study.
“In contrast, normative influence is when we change our beliefs to those of others for reasons unrelated to correctness. For example, we may seek to maximize group cohesion or acceptance social,” they added.
The research is the first of its kind to demonstrate that the brain behaves differently when it experiences an informational influence or a normative influence.
To begin their study, the researchers asked people to play a video game.
During the game, people were asked to try to remember where a point displayed on the screen was.
They were also asked to rate their level of confidence in their answer.
Once they had done this, they were then allowed to revise their previous response after viewing a response from a computer or their partner in the activity. They met their partner before the start of the experiment.
While the participants felt like their partner had made a response, all of the responses actually came from the computer.
An MRI was used to visualize activity in the brain during the game.
The researchers reported that brain activity differed between normative and social influence. Participants experiencing normative influence showed stronger activity in the area of the brain responsible for decision-making and empathy, a region known as dACC.
Normative influence also showed stronger connections to the dACC from other brain regions.
The researchers also found that if a participant had a low level of confidence in their response, they were more likely to comply with the response presented to them, whether it came from the computer or from their partner.
Shane Owens, PhD, a behavioral and cognitive psychologist in New York City, said it’s no surprise that those who aren’t confident are more easily swayed.
“When we are in doubt, we turn to others for more information about our choices. The quality of our choices has a lot to do with how much importance we place on evaluating the information they provide, whether ‘they come from an informational or normative influence,’ Owens told Healthline.
“Most of the time, what real experts say or social norms provide decent estimates of good decisions. Problems arise when we do not assess the source, validity and reliability of information,” he added.
Steven Siegel, PhD, is chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
He said it was important to be open to a change of heart.
“If you never change your mind, you’re being rigid, not using the information you have, and giving up the power to be thoughtful and make smart choices,” Siegel told Healthline. “Smart people use available information and constantly re-evaluate the decisions they make.”
“People should always be open to the idea that you can change your mind. Because that means you have the ability to learn,” he added.
“And you have the power to gather information and make your own decision. If we had a little less… of that rigidity, a little less of the ‘there’s nothing you can do that can influence me’, there would be a lot less discord,” Siegel said.
The study authors argue that understanding the brain mechanisms behind social influence is important for understanding what contributes to a change of mind.
Owens said it’s possible to change your mind about something in a healthy way. It starts with knowing what you stand for and being aware of the influences you allow into your life.
“It’s essential to start with your core values. Think about what is most important to you – family, money, health, status, adventure, etc. – every time you make decisions about what to think and do. You may need to change your mind to be healthier, happier and better connected,” he said.
“Most of the time, maturation and growth force us to change our minds over the course of our lives. A lot of this happens without us thinking about it due to social influence and our desire to be loved and included.
“Because our thoughts influence our behavior and emotions, any feelings that you have that your life is not going well or that it could be better can and probably will start with a change in your beliefs. In this case, consult several sources information, criticize everything you see, hear or read, and always check with people you trust or who are proven experts in their field,” Owens said.