People could be hot-wired to rebel: study

Some people could be hot-wired to rebel, according to a new study.
Photo / Thinkstock
Some people could be hot-wired to rebel, according to a new study. Photo / Thinkstock

There are always those who refuse to follow the crowd. But being rebellious could be hard-wired in our brains, scientists say.

Tests have found the extent to which people changed their minds to fit in was directly linked to the size of an area of their brains. Researchers studied the brain scans of 28 people to measure grey matter in different regions.

Participants were asked to list 20 songs they would like to buy and rate how much they liked each song out of ten. They were then told what well-known music critics thought of their choices - and asked them to rate the songs again.

The test was repeated with 20 unknown pieces of music.

People who conformed - changing their minds to what the experts thought - were found to have more grey matter in their lateral orbitofrontal cortex, an area associated with social behaviour and decision-making. The more a person ignored the experts and stuck to their guns, the smaller this region was, according to the study by neuroscientists at UCL and published in Current Biology journal.

This brain area, located behind the eyes, grows rapidly during childhood as we start to grasp social cues. But it is unclear why or when it stops growing in some people.
Damage to it is linked to behaving inappropriately in social situations or, in extreme cases, with personality disorders.

Professor Chris Frith of UCL said adapting to others is very important.

"It makes people like you more, and it be very useful if other people have more information than you have as it shows you what they value most," he said.

"My guess is that it's better if more people are conformists than rebels, but you need a few rebels otherwise there would be no progress."

Conformity was studied in the Ash Experiment in the US in 1951. In tests people were found to give an answer they knew was wrong simply because they had heard other participants say it.

- DAILY MAIL

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