By Martha Henrikes
We want to think that we will do the right thing in a difficult situation. We will resist our boss when necessary, we will intervene if we see someone being bullied, and say no, if we are asked to do something that we feel is wrong.
It is tempting to think that we have an inherent moral compass that guides our actions, even under the pressure of others. Yet in reality, most of us are too weak to resist authority. A new study is revealing why, giving us an insight into how the brain deals - or fails to deal with - these tough situations.
Lastly, research can show us how we can train ourselves to become stronger and more capable of snatching our "weapons" when needed. In the experiments carried out by the neuroscientist Emili Kaspar of the Dutch Institute of Neuroscience, volunteers gave each other electric shocks. (The research follows the steps of Stenli Milgram's infamous experiments in the 1960s, but in a more ethical and rigorous scientific way).
First, participants were asked to give a blow to a small amount of money (about 5 cents each time). When a participant was given 60 chances to hit their partner, about half of the time, they did not choose to do so. About 5 to 10 percent of people choose not to give any shock to their study partner in the 60 options.
Then Kaspar stood over the participant's head and ordered him to give the blows, to do something like that. At the moment, even the participants who had not given any blows earlier began to press the button. As soon as Kaspar gave orders, the participant's brain activity also changed, as EEG (Electroencephalography) showed.
In particular, the research showed that the brain was less able to process the consequences of the respondents' actions. For the vast majority of volunteers, their sense of responsibility and responsibility began to melt. "I tested more than 450 participants, and so far only 3 refused to follow the orders. How can these people be different from others? "- asks Kaspar.
Some of us are able to resist authority, while the overwhelming majority are usually not. Studies on patients with a localized brain injury are helping to answer a part of this question. When people have damage to the prefrontal cortex - the outer layer of the front of the brain - they seem to be more inclined to follow orders than the general population.
"They quickly hear the authorities, and are less capable of questioning their commands," says Erik Asp, assistant professor of psychology at the College of Liberal Arts at Hemlajn University in USA. "This means if an authoritarian figure tells you to hurt someone else, you're more likely to do this."
The protest center
What is that part of the brain that helps us resist authority? The issue enters into philosophical topics like nature - and the neurological basis - belief. While there is no clear scientific consensus, the Spinozian model is a strong candidate. He suggests that to understand a new idea or fact, our brain, for a second faction, fully believes.
"The act of understanding is the act of faith. No matter what those processes are, they are the same "- says Asp. After a fraction of a second, you may suspect or reject this new piece of information. "You can use a separate neuropsychological process to come back and not trust that mental representation," says Asp. "In other words, you return and doubt."
For patients with a predecessor cortex, this is the second part of the process that is damaged, argues Asp. So, rather than thinking twice about what an authority tells us, patients with pre-cardiac patients are more likely to take what they hear.
If the prefrontal cortex is the place of our ability to suspect and question authority, there can be a way for healthy people to strengthen our ability to do so. The paraplegic bite has some kind of plasticity. "I think that's what it's modifiable," says Asp.
Education is one of the best ways to improve your ability to suspect, says Asp, and therefore your ability to think critically about the things you may be told to do.
There is also a decisive factor that affects your behavior. When a figure of authority asks us to do something we usually do, because we are inclined to believe in the cause behind their request, says Megan Birnej, a psychologist and pedagogue at Caster University.
In an experiment, Birne and her colleagues measured how many people left an experiment that was asked to do something morally unpleasant. Participants had to associate negative terms with people's groups appearing in the picture. The images began with groups that was easy to dislike, such as the Nazis or Ku Klux Klan.
Gradually, the pictures were of the most neutral groups, and at the end of families or groups of young children. For those who continued experimenting, they had a belief that they were contributing to something important that pushed them forward. Determining negative episodes for harmless people groups meant to be emotional, making the majority of participants feel uncomfortable.
"Some of those who abandoned the study took it as something that was very important to me, and they would be very sorry for me," says Birne. Participants would often say: "I'm sorry, I hope I did not break the job, just did not feel good at all, I hope you understand ...". In many cases, co-operation was accompanied by a strong sense of guilt.
Logically, you can expect to have a turning point where you realize that what you do is terrible.
But if we strongly believe that we are doing something valuable - that the purpose justifies the means - that moment fades or may never emerge. Being able to rise up against authority does not depend on bravery, courage, faith, or stubbornness.
The brain processes and core regions, for rejecting ideas from authority figures, are beginning to be discovered. And how much investment we are in a certain cause can be a very important factor in determining when we are able to manifest openly resistance to authority. / BBC - Brought to you by @helamia .
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