Our Brain Treats Corporations Like Individual People

New research led by popular neuroscientist David Eagleman demonstrates that our brain reacts to corporate behavior as though individual people were taking action.

Our Brain Treats Corporations Like Individual People

New research led by popular neuroscientist David Eagleman demonstrates that our brain reacts to corporate behavior as though individual people were taking action. The finding may help explain why rights previously reserved for individuals — such as the freedom to worship and the right to free speech — were recently extended to corporations by the Supreme Court.


In an experiment, 40 people viewed short videos that each presented a pro-social, anti-social, or neutral action committed either by a person or a corporation. Scientists meanwhile observed how the brains of the participants behaved.

Learn more about Big Think expert David Eagleman's research here.

Past studies showed that a certain area of the brain's medial prefrontal cortex, which helps regulate emotion, deactivates when we consider inanimate objects or when individuals are presented in a dehumanized context. Researchers expected the same would be true when people considered the actions of corporations, but they found otherwise.

Participants expressed feeling more negative emotions like anger and disgust when viewing anti-social corporate action compared to anti-social people. When people acted selflessly, however, they received more praise than corporations that behaved benevolently.

Business consultant and founder of Monitor Talent Christopher Meyer explains how corporations need to cope with being held to higher standards rather than ignore their social obligation:

"I think companies are confused by being asked to take responsibility for every social issue that there is, not just the health of their own workers, but you know, what does Apple have to do with breast cancer, for example?  It’s not clear that there’s a close enough relationship there to make it worthwhile, and yet every company is under pressure to respond to the social ills in the world."

COVID-19 amplified America’s devastating health gap. Can we bridge it?

The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.

Willie Mae Daniels makes melted cheese sandwiches with her granddaughter, Karyah Davis, 6, after being laid off from her job as a food service cashier at the University of Miami on March 17, 2020.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
  • Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
  • To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
Keep reading Show less

Study: Medieval arrows were as damaging as gunshots

A study by UK archaeologists finds that longbows caused horrific injuries similar to modern gunshot wounds.

Injury to the right tibia caused by a puncture wound.

Credit: Oliver Creighton/University of Exeter
Surprising Science
  • UK archaeologists discover medieval longbows caused injuries similar to modern gunshot wounds.
  • The damage was caused by the arrows spinning clockwise.
  • No longbows from medieval times survived until our times.
Keep reading Show less

Skyborne whales: The rise (and fall) of the airship

Can passenger airships make a triumphantly 'green' comeback?

R. Humphrey/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

Large airships were too sensitive to wind gusts and too sluggish to win against aeroplanes. But today, they have a chance to make a spectacular return.

Keep reading Show less

Vegans are more likely to suffer broken bones, study finds

Vegans and vegetarians often have nutrient deficiencies and lower BMI, which can increase the risk of fractures.

Credit: Jukov studi via Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • The study found that vegans were 43% more likely to suffer fractures than meat eaters.
  • Similar results were observed for vegetarians and fish eaters, though to a lesser extent.
  • It's possible to be healthy on a vegan diet, though it takes some strategic planning to compensate for the nutrients that a plant-based diet can't easily provide.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast