Chapter 15. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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Genevieve Fox Paola Peretti is losing her eyesight and she wouldn’t have it any other way. When she was 14, she became very short-sighted, virtually overnight. Three years later came the diagnosis of Stargardt macular dystrophy, a degenerative disease that destroys central vision, damages colour perception and results in blindness. Two years ago, finding herself in a place of both “desperation and hope,” the 32-year-old Italian language teacher and debut novelist decided to step out from the shadow of her hereditary condition, which she only ever aired with her family, and confront her fear of the dark. The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree is the result: a captivating, wise and highly visual children’s novel about living in the face of fear. Its heroine, nine-year-old Mafalda, also has Stargardt disease. A bewitching, brave little girl, she will lose her sight completely within six months, as Peretti was expecting to do at some unspecified point in her own life when she began the novel. The eponymous cherry tree is next to Mafalda’s school. Each day, she has to get closer to it before it comes into focus. As her short-sightedness increases, so does her fear of the future. “She is losing her life as she knows it,” says Peretti, who explains that she herself can see “half of what other people see”. Mafalda has blank patches in both eyes, and they get bigger. Peretti has a blank patch in her right eye. I am seated a couple of feet from her as we talk in her publisher’s office. She says I am partially blurred. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Vision; Emotions
Link ID: 25352 - Posted: 08.20.2018

Jules Howard And so, the killer whale known as J35 is back to her old self. She is no longer carrying the dead body of a calf she held aloft in the water for more than two weeks. Her so-called tour of grief has ended, to the relief of a global audience who had become wrapped up in this heart-wrenching animal drama. Great news, right? Sure. Yet I have a strange feeling in my stomach. It’s a familiar one. The pedant in me is stirring, eager to get us to consider what we know about animals and what we don’t – and may never – know about their lives. It isn’t my aim to belittle J35 and her apparent pain, far from it. It’s rather to make sure we don’t accidentally dilute the emotions of a killer whale by making it all about us. First, I have form on this issue. A while ago, I published a book called Death on Earth and episodes of apparent animal grief was one of the areas upon which I focused. During my research, I drew up a list of all sorts of anecdotes about animals labelled (by respectable researchers) as evidence of “mourning” and “grief”. These included police dogs pawing at their master’s coffins, macaques resuscitating fallen loved ones and turtles appearing on beaches to mourn at makeshift graves made by humans for the turtles that didn’t make it. I was told by members of the public on Twitter about dogs going off food after losing kennel-mates and horses burying dead stablemates in hay and I was reminded regularly of those BBC documentaries featuring elephants in apparent (but I would argue edited) tears at the loss of a loved one. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 25343 - Posted: 08.17.2018

By Andrew R. Calderon In 1978, Thomas Barefoot was convicted of killing a police officer in Texas. During the sentencing phase of his trial, the prosecution called two psychiatrists to testify about Barefoot’s “future dangerousness,” a capital-sentencing requirement that asked the jury to determine if the defendant posed a threat to society. The psychiatrists declared Barefoot a “criminal psychopath,” and warned that whether he was inside or outside a prison, there was a “one hundred percent and absolute chance” that he would commit future acts of violence that would “constitute a continuing threat to society.” Informed by these clinical predictions, the jury sentenced Barefoot to death. Although such psychiatric forecasting is less common now in capital cases, a battery of risk assessment tools has since been developed that aims to help courts determine appropriate sentencing, probation and parole. Many of these risk assessments use algorithms to weigh personal, psychological, historical and environmental factors to make predictions of future behavior. But it is an imperfect science, beset by accusations of racial bias and false positives. Now a group of neuroscientists at the University of New Mexico propose to use brain imaging technology to improve risk assessments. Kent Kiehl, a professor of psychology, neuroscience and the law at the University of New Mexico, said that by measuring brain structure and activity they might better predict the probability an individual will offend again.

Keyword: Aggression; Brain imaging
Link ID: 25339 - Posted: 08.16.2018

/ By Rod McCullom Eight years ago, New York University sociologist Patrick Sharkey published a paper whose conclusions shook the worlds of criminology and adolescent psychology. Researchers had long known that children exposed to violence and crime had poorer measures of memory, attention, planning, and focus — the cognitive processes collectively known as executive function — than peers whose lives were violence-free. But what Sharkey found, using data on 6,000 Chicago homicides from 1994 to 2002, was that a killing in a child’s neighborhood could significantly lower his or her scores on standardized tests — even if the child did not witness the killing or know the victim. He proposed that post-traumatic stress caused by exposure to violence could explain about half of the “achievement gap” between black and white students — a disparity that leads to persistent inequalities in education, income, careers, housing, and more. Similar findings have been documented in more recent studies, but one question has continued to vex researchers: Why? How does even indirect violence get under a child’s skin and into the brain? Now some intriguing interdisciplinary research — by psychologists, economists, and sociologists — suggests that a large part of the answer may lie in two biological pathways: sleep and the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers at Northwestern University, DePaul University, and NYU (including Sharkey) looked at 82 adolescents aged 11 to 18 who attended public schools in a “large Midwestern city.” (The school system asked for anonymity to participate in the study.) At least half the students had at least one violent crime in their neighborhood during the participation period, according to geocoded police report data collected by the researchers. The students wore activity-tracking watches that measured sleep-wake patterns, and most of them delivered three saliva samples daily for measuring cortisol levels. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Aggression; Stress
Link ID: 25285 - Posted: 08.02.2018

Maria Temming Google Glass may have failed as a high-tech fashion trend, but it’s showing promise as a tool to help children with autism better navigate social situations. A new smartphone app that pairs with a Google Glass headset uses facial recognition software to give the wearer real-time updates on which emotions people are expressing. In a pilot trial, described online August 2 in npj Digital Medicine, 14 children with autism spectrum disorder used this program at home for an average of just over 10 weeks. After treatment, the kids showed improved social skills, including increased eye contact and ability to decode facial expressions. After her 9-year-old son, Alex, participated in the study, Donji Cullenbine described the Google Glass therapy as “remarkable.” She noticed within a few weeks that Alex was meeting her eyes more often — a behavior change that’s stuck since treatment ended, she says. And Alex enjoyed using the Google Glass app. Cullenbine recalls her son telling her excitedly, “Mommy, I can read minds.” Unlike most children, who naturally learn to read facial expressions by interacting with family and friends, children with autism often have to hone these skills through behavioral therapy. That typically involves a therapist leading the child through structured activities, like exercises with flash cards that depict faces wearing different expressions. But therapists are so few and far between that a child diagnosed with autism can spend 18 months on a waiting list before starting treatment. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Autism; Emotions
Link ID: 25283 - Posted: 08.02.2018

Laura Sanders Anxiety can run in families. Key differences in how an anxious monkey’s brain operates can be passed along too, a large study suggests. By finding a pattern of brain activity linked to anxiety, and by tracing it through generations of monkeys, the results bring researchers closer to understanding the brain characteristics involved in severe anxiety — and how these characteristics can be inherited. “We can trace how anxiety falls through the family tree,” which parents pass it on to which children, how cousins are affected and so on, says study coauthor Ned Kalin of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. The newly identified brain activity pattern takes the same path through the family tree as the anxious behavior, Kalin and colleagues report July 30 in the Journal of Neuroscience. Kalin and colleagues studied rhesus monkeys that, as youngsters, displayed an anxious temperament. Human children with this trait are often painfully shy, and are at much higher risk of going on to develop anxiety and depression than other children, studies have shown. Monkeys can behave similarly. Researchers measured anxious temperament by subjecting young monkeys to a stressful situation: An intruder entered their cage and showed only his or her profile to the monkey. “The monkey isn’t sure what is going to happen, because it can’t see the individual’s eyes,” Kalin says. Faced with this potential threat, monkeys freeze and fall silent. By measuring the degree of this response, as well as levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the researchers figured out which monkeys had anxious temperaments. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Emotions; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 25274 - Posted: 07.31.2018

by Maggie Fox A mind-controlling parasite found in cat feces may give people the courage they need to become entrepreneurs, researchers reported Tuesday. They found that people who have been infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite are more likely to major in business and to have started their own businesses than non-infected people. The parasite, which makes rodents unafraid of cats, may be reducing the fear of failure in people, Stefanie Johnson of the University of Colorado and colleagues said. They haven’t actually shown that. But toxoplasma does get into the brain, and it’s been linked to a variety of mental effects in mice and people alike. And fear of failure could be a good thing, Johnson said. Toxoplasmosis has been linked to a greater risk of "car accidents, mental illness, neuroticism, drug abuse and suicide,” Johnson and her colleagues wrote in their paper, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It might be affecting message-carrying chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, or hormones such as testosterone, they wrote. In particular, scientists have studied whether the parasite might increase risk-taking behavior. © 2018 NBC UNIVERSAL

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 25260 - Posted: 07.27.2018

In the wake of a mass shooting — or any other senseless tragedy — the search for answers begins. How could it happen? Could it have been prevented? What can we do to prevent this from happening again? The question of whether there is a relationship between mental illness and violence — and the potential threat it may pose to public safety — was renewed this week after the family of Faisal Hussain, the gunman in Sunday night's deadly shooting rampage in Toronto, said he was mentally ill. "Our son had severe mental health challenges, struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life," the statement said. Two people were killed and 13 others injured in the attack, jolting a city already rattled by escalating gun violence. Hussain died from a gunshot wound moments after exchanging gunfire with Toronto police officers. Little is known about Hussain's condition or treatment beyond the statement released by his family. And while some explanation of what may have tormented or even motivated Hussain may add to our understanding, experts agree mental illness is just one of many potential red flags and not a reliable predictor of behaviour. People leave flowers at a memorial Tuesday honouring the victims of the mass shooting on Toronto's Danforth Avenue. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press) ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Aggression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 25252 - Posted: 07.26.2018

By Esther Landhuis From savoring a piece of cake to hugging a friend, many of life’s pleasures trigger a similar reaction in the brain—a surge of chemicals that tell the body “that was good, do it again.” Research published Friday in Nature Communications suggests this feel-good circuit may do much more. Using lab tools to activate that reward circuit in mice, scientists discovered that its chemical signals reach the immune system, empowering a subset of bone marrow cells to slow the growth of tumors. The findings have yet to be confirmed in humans. But given the reward system is linked with positive emotions, the research offers a physiological mechanism for how a person’s psychological state could help to stall cancer progression. Plenty of research measures the health impact of stress and negative feelings, says Erica Sloan, a biologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. But the potential for immune activity to shift in response to positive influences through the brain’s reward center—“that’s what I think is really exciting,” says Sloan, who studies neural-immune activity in cancer but was not involved in the present study. The notion that the brain talks to the immune system isn’t new. One of the most compelling examples is the placebo effect—the centuries-old observation that sugar pills can work as well as evidence-based medicine in some people. For years scientists have tried to unravel the biology behind this mysterious phenomenon. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Neuroimmunology; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25205 - Posted: 07.14.2018

By Karen Weintraub No one can talk to a horse, of course. But a new study set out to find whether horses are trying to tell us something when they snort. In the study, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers in France determined that the snorting exhale that horses often make may be a sign of a positive emotion. Mathilde Stomp, a doctoral student at the University of Rennes who led the research, said she set out to understand whether the snort could be used as an measure of the horse’s mood. She and her collaborators recorded 560 snorts among 48 privately owned and riding school horses. All the horses snorted — as little as once or as often as 13 times an hour. The horses mainly snorted during calm and relaxing activities, and those that spent more time out of doors snorted the most, the study found. When a horse was snorting, the researchers also recorded the animal’s ear position; forward-pointing ears are a known signal of a positive internal state, Ms. Stomp said. Researchers also developed a composite score of each animal’s stress level when snorting, with measurements including how much time a horse spent facing the wall in its stall, as well as its level of interaction with or aggressive behavior toward the researcher. Ms. Stomp said her work was motivated by the desire to help people better understand and meet the needs of their animals. “We think that with this acoustic indicator, maybe they will be able to test when their horses are in good conditions or not,” she said. Not all horses may be snorting in contentment, however, but rather in discomfort or simply acting on a physical need, akin to humans blowing their noses. Sue McDonnell, a specialist in equine physiology and behavior at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, said not enough is known to draw conclusions about a horse’s emotional state from its snorts. “I think it’s a huge overreach, an over-interpretation of their data,” she said. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 25196 - Posted: 07.12.2018

by Jennifer MacCormack Many people feel more irritable, annoyed or negative when hungry — an experience colloquially called being “hangry.” The idea that hunger affects our feelings and behaviors is widespread. But surprisingly little research investigates how feeling hungry transforms into feeling hangry. Psychologists have traditionally thought of hunger and emotions as separate, with hunger and other physical states as basic drives with different physiological and neural underpinnings from emotions. But growing scientific evidence suggests that your physical states can shape your emotions and cognition in surprising ways. Prior studies show that hunger itself can influence mood, probably because it activates many of the same bodily systems — such as the autonomic nervous system and hormones — that are involved in emotion. For example, when you’re hungry, your body releases a host of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline, often associated with stress. The result is that hunger, especially at greater intensity, can make you feel more tense, unpleasant and primed for action. But is feeling hangry just these hunger-induced feelings, or is there more to it? This question inspired the studies that psychologist Kristen Lindquist and I conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We wanted to know whether ­hunger-induced feelings can transform how people experience their emotions and the world around them. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Emotions; Obesity
Link ID: 25191 - Posted: 07.11.2018

Laura Sanders Mouse mothers can transmit stress signals to offspring, changing the way the pups’ bodies and brains develop. Some of these stress messages get delivered during birth, scientists suggest July 9 in Nature Neuroscience. Researchers suspected that vaginal microbes from stressed-out moms could affect male pups in ways that leave them vulnerable to stress later in life (SN: 12/14/2013, p. 13). But earlier studies hadn’t demonstrated whether those microbes, picked up during birth, actually caused some of the changes seen in offspring, or if other aspects of life in utero were to blame. Tracy Bale of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and colleagues subjected pregnant mice to stressful trials that included smelling the scent of a fox for an hour, listening to unusual sounds overnight and being restrained in a tube for 15 minutes. Other pregnant mice didn’t experience these stressors. Then, researchers delivered pups by cesarean section, so that the pups weren’t exposed to their mothers’ community of vaginal microorganisms, or microbiome. After delivery, researchers dosed the pups with vaginal fluid taken from stressed or unstressed mothers. For male pups not exposed to stress in the womb, vaginal microbes from a stressed mother changed the amount of certain kinds of gut bacteria. (Just as in earlier studies, female pups didn’t show effects of their mothers’ stress.) When those male pups were older, being restrained led them to release more of the stress hormone corticosteroid than mice dosed with microbiota from unstressed moms. And in the brains of adult mice that had experienced chronic stress, genes involved in metabolism and the development of nerve cells behaved differently depending on whether early microbes came from stressed or unstressed mothers. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Stress; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25187 - Posted: 07.10.2018

Sukanya Charuchandra Like humans, mice experience a period of amnesia when they lose their memories of experiences from infancy. Now, researchers report that these memories are not entirely forgotten by mice but simply difficult to recollect—and can be brought out of storage. These findings were published today (July 5) in Current Biology. According to this study, early life experiences “leave very long-lasting traces even if the memories are not expressed,” writes Cristina Alberini, who studies memory at New York University’s Center for Neural Science and was not involved in the study, in an email to The Scientist. Having encountered patients who couldn’t remember their early years, Sigmund Freud first coined the term infantile amnesia in the late 19th century. Since then, scientists have tried to understand why humans, nonhuman primates, and rodents alike experience this phenomenon. Whether these lost memories were due to improper storage or inefficient recollection was unknown. In this latest study, Paul Frankland, a psychologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and his colleagues sought to establish which of these possibilities was operating in mice. To first induce memory formation in the animals, the scientists placed the mice in a box and gave them a mild foot shock. While young adult mice retained this memory and froze when put in the box a second time, infant mice forgot this fear-related memory after a day and behaved normally when they encountered the box again. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist.

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Emotions
Link ID: 25182 - Posted: 07.07.2018

by Amy Ellis Nutt The possibility of using brain stimulation to help prevent future violence just passed a proof of concept stage, according to new research published Monday in the Journal of Neuroscience. In a double-blind, randomized controlled study, a group of volunteers who received a charge to their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that lies directly behind the forehead and is responsible for planning, reasoning and inhibition were — were less likely to say they would consider engaging in aggressive behavior compared to a similar group that received a sham treatment. The experiment looked at aggressive intent as well as how people reasoned about violence and found that a sense of moral wrongfulness about hypothetical acts of aggression was heightened in the group receiving the transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This form of brain stimulation delivers targeted impulses to the brain through electrodes placed on a person's scalp. "Zapping offenders with an electrical current to fix their brains sounds like pulp fiction, but it might not be as crazy as it sounds," said Adrian Raine, a neurocriminologist at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study's investigators. "This study goes some way toward documenting a causal association by showing that enhancing the prefrontal cortex puts the brakes on the impulse to act aggressively." © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 25171 - Posted: 07.03.2018

By Hannah Furfaro, It was a sunny California afternoon in January 2015 when Dennis Wall received an unexpected gift: ‘smart glasses’ made by Google that had failed to live up to their hype in the press. An employee from the company pulled up to Wall’s lab at Stanford University in a sleek gray Tesla, popped open the sedan’s trunk and unloaded a brown cardboard box with long, dangling cords. It was a scene straight out of the television comedy “Silicon Valley,” which satirizes the absurdity of the tech world. Wall’s ambition for the Google Glass, however, is dead earnest: He aims to help people with autism interpret others’ emotions. Many people with autism have trouble understanding social cues and emotions, and this can greatly limit how they fare in the world. Wall developed an algorithm that relies on artificial intelligence. His plan was to incorporate the algorithm into the glasses, so that someone wearing the glasses would see a tiny emoticon that matches the expression on the face of another person. The algorithm was all set to go, and Wall had been waiting for the glasses to test his idea. “It was lifesaving for us because we were desperate to get started,” he recalls. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism; Emotions
Link ID: 25166 - Posted: 07.02.2018

Ruth Williams If youngsters told their elders to be quiet, stress levels would surely rise. But, when it comes to brain cells, it seems the opposite is true—silencing of old neurons by young ones appears to make an animal more stress resilient. A report today (June 27) in Nature shows that mice whose production of new hippocampal neurons was ramped up suffered less anxiety in a stressful social situation than their control counterparts, and this was thanks to an increased inhibition of mature hippocampal cells. “It’s a very elegant paper showing how adult neurogenesis protects against chronic stress,” says neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret of King’s College London in the U.K. who was not involved in the research. It was known that the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus could prevent stress, “but we didn’t really know how,” she explains. “[The authors] show that the new neurons modulate the activity of mature neurons and that this has a behavioral effect.” In the adult brains of most mammals, neurogenesis occurs in two regions: the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus—an area implicated in memory formation, exploration, stress, and depression—and the striatum—implicated in, among other things, reward and reinforcement. While humans appear to have little if any striatal neurogenesis, evidence suggests they continue to produce new neurons in the dentate gyrus throughout life, though there has been some recent debate regarding this. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist. All rights reserved.

Keyword: Neurogenesis; Emotions
Link ID: 25157 - Posted: 06.29.2018

By Elizabeth Gamillo Why does a wild rabbit flee when a person approaches it, but a domestic rabbit sticks around for a treat? A new study finds that domestication may have triggered changes in the brains of these—and perhaps other—animals that have helped them adapt to their new, human-dominated environment. The new study provides “specific and new insights” into the ongoing debate over the physiological factors shaping domestication and evolution, says Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra, a professor of paleobiology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland who was not involved with the work. The leader of the research team, animal geneticist Leif Andersson of Uppsala University in Sweden and Texas A&M University in College Station, thinks the process of domestication has led to changes in brain structure that allow the rabbit to be less nervous around humans. To find out, he and colleagues took MRI scans of the brains of eight wild and eight domestic rabbits and compared the results. The team found that the amygdala, a region of the brain that processes fear and anxiety, is 10% smaller in domesticated rabbits than in wild rabbits. Meanwhile, the medial prefrontal cortex, which controls responses to aggressive behavior and fear, is 11% larger in domesticated rabbits. The researchers also found that the brains of domesticated rabbits are less able to process information related to fight-or-flight responses because they have less white matter than their feral cousins do. White matter handles information processing. When a wild rabbit is in danger, more white matter is needed for faster reflexes and for learning what to be afraid of. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Evolution; Emotions
Link ID: 25142 - Posted: 06.26.2018

By Marcus Woo Some laughs are genuine reactions to hilarity. Others are more contrived—fake, even. But, according to a new study, people can usually tell real laughs from fake ones, regardless of cultural differences. In the first cross-cultural experiment of its kind, researchers asked 884 people from 21 different cultures in six regions around the world, from Peru to South Korea, to listen to recordings of real, spontaneous laughter, and fake, “volitional” laughter recorded from college-aged, U.S. women. On average, nearly two-thirds of listeners in each culture could tell the difference, the team reports in a study accepted for publication in Psychological Science. Genuine chuckles were typically higher pitched and louder, analysis of the sound files revealed. Similar characteristics are seen in cries of pain and anguish, the researchers say, suggesting that laughing is a more emotional and primal response that emerged early in human evolution. A fake laugh, however, is a deliberate response that likely evolved later with speech, the team says. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 25139 - Posted: 06.26.2018

By Frank Bures Even if there is no sonic weapon, or genitals are not truly shrinking, these conditions are all quite real to the sufferers, just as depression and anxiety are real. One afternoon in May of 2004, a third-grade boy at a local school in Fuhu reported feeling that his genitals were shrinking. He panicked, ran home, and his parents fetched the local healer — an 80-year-old woman who had seen this sort of thing before: In 1963, she said, around the time of the Great Leap Forward, an “evil wind” had blown through the village and many people were struck by this illness known as “suo-yang.” She treated the boy by traditional means and he recovered quickly. Two days later when the school principal learned of the incident, he gathered all 680 students in the school courtyard and, according to a report by Dr. Li Jie of the Guangzhou Psychiatric Hospital, “explained to the students in detail what had happened, and warned them to be cautious, and to take emergency measures if they experienced similar symptoms.” Within two days, 64 other boys were struck with suo-yang, which in its epidemic form, is referred to in the scientific literature as a “mass psychogenic illness” or a “collective stress response.” The Fuhu case was a textbook example of how such an illness can spread through a group of people, and the headmaster did the worst possible thing by explaining the symptoms in detail and assuring students they were in danger. He all but caused epidemic. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Attention; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25123 - Posted: 06.22.2018

Leslie Henderson Anti-immigrant policies, race-related demonstrations, Title IX disputes, affirmative action court cases, same-sex marriage litigation. These issues are continually in the headlines. But even thoughtful articles on these subjects seem always to devolve to pitting warring factions against each other: black versus white, women versus men, gay versus straight. At the most fundamental level of biology, people recognize the innate advantage of defining differences in species. But even within species, is there something in our neural circuits that leads us to find comfort in those like us and unease with those who may differ? As in all animals, human brains balance two primordial systems. One includes a brain region called the amygdala that can generate fear and distrust of things that pose a danger – think predators or or being lost somewhere unknown. The other, a group of connected structures called the mesolimbic system, can give rise to pleasure and feelings of reward in response to things that make it more likely we’ll flourish and survive – think not only food, but also social pleasure, like trust. But how do these systems interact to influence how we form our concepts of community? Implicit association tests can uncover the strength of unconscious associations. Scientists have shown that many people harbor an implicit preference for their in-group – those like themselves – even when they show no outward or obvious signs of bias. For example, in studies whites perceive blacks as more violent and more apt to do harm, solely because they are black, and this unconscious bias is evident even toward black boys as young as five years old. © 2010–2018, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Attention; Emotions
Link ID: 25122 - Posted: 06.22.2018