No matter how much we like to argue, we love it when people agree with us, scientists have said.
Researchers Chris Frith and colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) in collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark have found that the 'reward' area of the brain is activated when people agree with our opinions.
The team, in a study of 28 volunteers in the UK, found that agreeing with a person's opinions affects ventral striatum, the area of the brain associated with receiving rewards. All volunteers were asked about their favourite songs and then made to sit with 'experts' who decided whether they liked them too. The subjects were then placed in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, which records brain activity by measuring related changes in blood flow.
When the reviewers agreed with the subject's own choice, the team found that the subject's ventral striatum, the area of the brain associated with rewards, became active. Activity in this area tended to be strongest when both reviewers agreed with the subject.
The team also found that after the experiment, a majority of the subjects changed their opinions according to the reviewers' and seven people changed their opinions opposite to the reviewers.
"It seems that not only are some people more influenced by the opinions of others, but by looking at activity in the brain, we can tell who those people are," says Professor Frith.
The study is published today in the journal Current Biology.