Freiburg scientist has decoded brain processes associated with the subconscious evaluation of social groups
Humans assess each other within milliseconds, deciding whether someone is likeable or not. The Freiburg psychologist and neuroscientist Dr. Bastian Schiller and a team at the University of Basel in Switzerland are the first to have discovered the subconscious processes in the brain and the order in which they occur that determine how humans process social information such as likability or antipathy.
Their findings have been published in the latest issue of the U.S. science journal „Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences“ (PNAS).
The researchers employed the Implicit Association Test (IAT) in their study. The subjects reacted to positive and negative words and concepts that they associated with their own or a foreign group. Schiller and the Swiss research team of Prof. Dr. Daria Knoch and Dr. Lorena Gianotti administered the IAT in a group of soccer fans, for instance. While the subjects were responding to concepts such a „love“ or „death“, or the names of players on their own versus the opposing team, the researchers measured their brain waves on an electroencephalogram.
They aimed to investigate individual information processing steps and their duration during subconscious social assessments. To do this, they analyzed functional “microstates” in the brain. These are short phases – some lasting just a few milliseconds – during which a neuronal network is activated to carry a particular processing step. Researchers had already learned that reaction times in the IAT are longer when people associate foreign groups with positive characteristics.
What Schiller and the research team discovered in their analysis of the microstates is that the longer reaction times are not attributable to additional processing steps, but that some individual steps take longer. According to Schiller, „This study demonstrates the potential of modern electrical neuroimaging in helping to better understand the origin and time course of socially relevant processes in the human brain”.
A member of Prof. Dr. Markus Heinrichs’ working group at Albert-Ludwig University in Freiburg, Schiller is currently investigating the extent to which this discovery can facilitate the diagnostics and therapy of mental diseases involving social deficits.
The trinational neuroscientific research network NEUREX financially supports current research projects being conducted at the Institute of Psychology at Freiburg University. NEUREX is a participant in Eucor – The European Campus, a consortium of universities on the Upper Rhine valley in Freiburg, Basel, Mulhouse-Colmar, Strasbourg, and Karlsruhe.
Schiller, B.*, Gianotti, R. R. L.*, Baumgartner, T., Nash, K., Koenig, T. & Knoch, D. (2016). Clocking the social mind by identifying mental processes in the IAT with electrical neuroimaging. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). (* shared first authorship)
Dr. Bastian Schiller
Institute of Psychology
Laboratory for Biological and Personality Psychology
Rudolf-Werner Dreier | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Polymers Based on Boron?
18.01.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production
18.01.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences