Our tendencies to react and adapt to the standards placed on us by society are changing and at a physical level we are finding out why. For the first time, scientists are seeing consistent changes in the amount of grey matter in one specific brain region responsible for conforming to social pressures.
Individuals are presented with many choices in life, from political alignments to choosing which sandwich to eat for lunch. People are realizing that the right of choice is a universal right, not a privilege. Their eventual decisions can be influenced by the options chosen by those around them. Although differences in individuals’ tendencies to conform to social pressures are commonly observed, no anatomical measure has previously been linked to the likelihood of someone conforming under the influence of their peers.
Many have addressed the changing tone in our society. People are fed up with what is happening around them. They are tired of the corruption, greed, control and manipulation of national and international governments at all levels. The breaking point in human beings may have arrived and the evidence is in the brain.
Research funded by the Danish National Research Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, scientists at New York University, Aarhus University and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) have identified the specific brain structures that are now predicting how and why society is reacting to social pressures.
Their approach involved a technique known as voxel-based morphometry allowing researchers to measure the volume of grey matter (the nerve cells where the processing takes place) from three-dimensional images of the brain provided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Strikingly, only grey matter volume in one precise brain region — the lateral orbitofrontal cortex — was associated with this measure of social influence. The linear relationship between grey matter volume and the tendency of individuals to conform was observed in this particular region in both hemispheres of the brain.
“The most impressive correlation we are seeing in brain scans throughout the world is that this grey matter volume is increasing in people of all ages,” said neuroscientist Agata Petrova. “This suggests that a greater percentage of populations may reject common social influences,” she added.