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Humans predict how much they'll be liked based on how much they like others: Japanese study

A magnetic resonance imaging system layout is seen in this file photo taken at the Yawatahama City General Hospital in Ehime Prefecture. (Mainichi)

KOCHI -- A Japanese research group has determined through a brain study that humans likely consider how much they like another person when predicting how much that person likes them.

    Ayahito Ito, who teaches cognitive neuroscience at Kochi University of Technology's Research Institute for Future Design, and other researchers conducted an experiment on 22 male and 21 female university students in their 20s. Over several days, the students were presented with a total of 60 photos showing the faces of people of the opposite sex each for only about two seconds, while magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure their brain activity.

    The university students were then taken to a separate room and again presented with the photos. They were asked how much they liked the people in the photos (impressions) and to predict how much the people in the photos would like them (reflected impressions) on a scale of one to seven.

    After analyzing the results, the researchers found that even though they hadn't asked students to form impressions and reflected impressions of the people in the photos during the MRIs, a part of the brain that is said to become active when people feel happy activated when the students saw photos of people that they formed high-scoring impressions and reflected impressions of.

    Further statistical research on the activity in this part of the brain, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, found that the reason for the activity which occurred when students formed reflected impressions could be fully explained through the relationship between brain activity and the formation of an impression, as well as the relationship between the formation of an impression and that of a reflected impression. For this reason, it can be assumed that this part of the brain does not activate when people form reflected impressions.

    The research group concluded that when people form a reflected impression, they also form an impression of that person at the same time, and this could be why the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is activated.

    Ito commented, "It's difficult to predict whether a person you don't know likes you or not just by looking at that person's face. With limited information, people might be basing their predictions on whether they themselves like the other person."

    The findings were published in the American academic journal Human Brain Mapping on Aug. 1.

    (Japanese original by Shiori Kitamura, Kochi Bureau)

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