HEALTHY LIVING
02/22/2012 02:06 pm ET

Brain's Gray Matter Linked With Susceptibility To Peer Pressure: Study

How likely are you to go along with the crowd? It may have to do with the physiology of your brain, a new study suggests.

Research published in the journal Current Biology shows that grey matter in a specific brain region could predict a person's likelihood of giving in to social pressures.

Researchers from New York University, Aarhus University and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University of College London first conducted a brain measurement on 28 people called voxel based morphometry. This type of measurement notes the volume of grey matter in specific brain regions by analyzing 3-D images from MRI brain scans.

Researchers also tested how likely the same 28 study participants were to give in to social pressures. They had the participants rate songs by how much they liked them, and then had those songs rated by music critics. Then, the study participants re-rated their picks after learning of the professional critics' scores. Researchers found that people who changed how they rated the songs after learning of the professional critiques -- those who were more easily influenced when faced with disagreement -- also had a higher volume of gray matter in a brain region called the lateral orbitofrontal cortex.

"Our results show that social conformation is, at least in part, hard-wired in the structure of the brain," study researcher Chris Frith said in a statement.

While feeling pressured to conform certainly can be a bad thing, a recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that the sensation of being watched by our peers could actually push us to be more competitive or be a bigger risk-taker than if we were by ourselves, YouBeauty reported.

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