That is, when we are sad, we perceive the world to be sad with us. But when we are happy, everything is rosy.
The projection of one’s emotions onto others is well known to scientists. In fact, experts believe this trait is at the core of the ability to interpret and relate to others.
Nevertheless, emotional projections may lead to gross mistakes — an event called egocentricity bias in the emotional domain or EEB.
Experts are learning that when the brain perceives a mistaken interpretation has been made, cerebral mechanisms are activated.
Neuroscientists Giorgia Silani, Ph.D., and an international group of researchers, have identified an area in the brain involved in this process. The results were published on The Journal of Neuroscience.
In their experiments, researchers have first measured the likeliness of subjects to make these kinds of mistakes.
Then, thanks to functional magnetic resonance imaging, a cerebral area has been identified in which activity is clearly more intense when the subjects are making EEB mistakes. The responsible area is the right supramarginal gyrus, a relatively unknown location to social neurosciences.
In a third round of experiments, researchers have even tried to “sabotage” the activity of this cerebral area by temporarily shutting it down through transcranial magnetic stimulation, a harmless procedure which can silence the electrical activity of neurons.
Silani and colleagues observed that during “shutdowns,” the subjects made significantly more EEB mistakes than average, thus confirming the crucial role of this cerebral area.
“The results of our study,” Silani said, “show for the first time the physiological markers of highly adaptive social mechanisms, such as the ability to suppress our own emotional states in order to correctly evaluate those of others.
“Future research will allow us to understand how these abilities develop and decay over time, and how we can train them,”