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Presentation Master's Thesis - Maartje Overhaus - Brain and Cognition

Last modified on 09-09-2022
Agree to disagree: an exploratory fMRI study on the neural correlates of political decision making
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Start date
12-09-2022 11:00
End date
12-09-2022 12:00
Location

Roeterseilandcampus - Gebouw G

Straat

Nieuwe Achtergracht 129-B

Ruimte: 

S.09

Political polarization is on the rise and threatens to undermine democracies worldwide. Nevertheless, little is known about political polarization's underlying cognitive processes and how these contribute to societal division. Therefore, the current fMRI study investigated the link between the processing of political content and the cognitive processes of reward, emotion regulation, and reasoning. Initially, to identify the group-level neural correlates of these processes, participants performed a selection of mapper tasks inside the scanner. Next, participants rated sixty polarizing political statements inside the scanner to determine whether the neural regions implicated in reward, emotion regulation, and reasoning were engaged in processing political information. 

Unfortunately, the results provided no evidence for the hypothesized cognitive processes to be involved in processing political statements. Other findings of this study are nevertheless useful for future research in political neuroscience. Firstly, participants appeared to engage the parieto-frontal cognitive control network before deciding on the positive value of the political statement. Secondly, viewing political topics with negative valence resulted in bilateral precuneus activation, a region associated with self-reflection and moral decision-making. Lastly, activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex was detected while viewing content related to the opposing political direction. Despite these insights, interpretations of these results are made with caution due to the study's exploratory nature. Future research is required to expand our knowledge of the unconscious processes that facilitate political polarization. Ideally, this knowledge can be used to develop interventions that will effectively reduce political biases and will help to safeguard a healthy democracy.