Your brain learns better from people you like

Have you ever noticed that you tend to pay more attention to someone you like, and maybe less to someone you don’t? Well, researchers in cognitive neuroscience have found that our brains are actually “programmed” to learn more from people we like and less from those we dislike. This discovery sheds light on how our brain handles new information and makes connections.

Memory is like a superpower for learning. It helps us learn from new experiences and update what we already know. We learn from individual experiences and connect them to understand the world better. This way, we can make educated guesses about things we haven’t directly experienced. This is called memory integration, and it makes learning quick and flexible.

We are more inclined to form new connections and update knowledge from information presented by groups we favour

Inês Bramão, a psychology professor at Lund University, gives an example of memory integration: Imagine you see a man with a dog in the park, and later you see the dog with a woman in the city. Your brain quickly connects the dots and assumes that the man and woman are a couple, even though you’ve never seen them together before.

In a series of experiments, researchers found that our ability to remember and connect information across learning events is influenced by who presents the information. If the information comes from someone we like, it’s easier for us to connect the dots compared to when it comes from someone we dislike.

The participants in the study were asked to remember and connect different objects, like a bowl, ball, spoon, or scissors. It turned out that memory integration was influenced by whether the information came from someone the participant liked or disliked.

The researchers found that this discovery can be applied to real life. For example, in politics, if you sympathize with a political party that argues for raising taxes to benefit healthcare, you might attribute improvements in healthcare to the tax increase, even if the improvements had a different cause. This shows how our brain’s way of processing information can affect our understanding of real-world issues.

Mikael Johansson, a psychology professor at Lund University, emphasizes that this research shows how our memory can be influenced by the source of information, and how this can lead to polarization and resistance to new knowledge. This means that we are more likely to form new connections and update our knowledge from information presented by groups we favor.

Understanding the roots of polarization and resistance to new knowledge from basic brain functions offers a deeper insight into these complex behaviors. It’s not just about social media filter bubbles; it’s also about how our brains naturally handle information.

The researchers also highlight that we integrate information differently depending on who is delivering it, even when the information is completely neutral. In real life, where information often triggers stronger reactions, these effects could be even more significant.