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Culture & Religion

Why I Like The Way You Move

New research at USC shows that the brain processes the movements of others differently depending on the viewer's feelings about the person they're watching.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

Research just out from the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute shows that your feelings about a person — whether positive or negative — affects how your brain perceives that person’s movements. In what’s called a “mirroring effect,” the motor skill centers of our brains are activated when we watch someone else in motion. In the study, the test subjects, all Jewish men, were instructed to observe a set of people, half of whom were presented as neo-Nazis. The part of the brain doing the mirroring showed different activity for disliked individuals in motion compared to that for liked individuals. Interestingly, this applied only to individuals in motion: “There was no difference in brain activity in the motor region when participants simply watched still videos of the people they liked or disliked.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The study, which appeared in the journal PLOS ONE, “address[ed] the basic question of whether social factors influence our perception of simple actions,” said researcher Lisa Aziz-Zadeh. Lead author Mona Sobhani said, “Even something as basic as how we process visual stimuli of a movement is modulated by social factors, such as our interpersonal relationships and social group membership.”

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