Peer Pressure Hardwired into Our Brain

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Sep 13, 2011

Peer PressureEver thought what makes us indulge in an act of bravado when in company of our mates, something we would never imagine doing alone? It is the social setting that brings on the urge to win in people which is not so intense when they are alone, according to a new study by University of South California (USC).

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences led the study conducted by a team of researchers from various countries. They measured the activity of the brain associated with rewards and social reasoning. The participants of the study were made to enter into lotteries and their brains’ responses on winning the lotteries in different situations were observed.

It was found that the part of a participant’s brain associated with rewards called striatum was more active when he beat his peer, when compared with him winning it alone. Moreover, the part of the brain which is linked to social reasoning was more active when the lottery was won in the company of a peer. It was also observed that the participants winning in a social circumstance tended to gamble more with a competitive zeal in the subsequent lotteries.

George Coricelli, under whom the USC study was carried out said that their findings suggest that the brain has the ability to perceive the social setting and base the future reactions on the impetus received from the social setting. Coricelli further added that losing can easily be life threatening in private environments as there is no social support. A bad gamble in such a circumstance can be fatal. Whereas, in social settings, the winner-takes-all reward tends to encourage more risk taking. For instance, in a sexual competition, two suitors going for one potential mate, the second place does not exist.

Animals show the same tendency of social esteem. They have a strong inclination to be on top of the social ranking, so that they can use their position to have privilege in getting the resources of fulfilment such as food and mates. Peer pressure has always been known to one of the major factors dictating human behaviour. The USC research has thrown more light on the dynamics of social behaviour influenced by peer pressure.


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