Researchers at Cornell University were recently able to tell who certain individuals were thinking of, given a set of four possible people. The individuals were volunteers in a scientific experiment in which they were given descriptions of imaginary people they were told were real. “Half the personalities were agreeable, described as liking to cooperate with others; the other half were less agreeable, depicted as cold and aloof or having similar traits. In addition, half these characters were described as outgoing and sociable extroverts, while the others were less so, depicted as sometimes shy and inhibited.”
What’s the Big Idea?
By scanning the subjects’ brains using fMRI machines, doctors were able to determine which of the four identities people had on their minds. This implies that a certain region of the brain—medial prefrontal cortex—is responsible for encoding personalities and predicting the behavior of the people we know into the future. The anterior medial prefrontal cortex is also linked to autism and other disorders where people have problems with social interactions, possibly opening the door to curative research.