It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see

Yaara Yeshurun

School of Psychological Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv University

National Research University – Higher School of Economics

People frequently interpret the same information differently, based on their prior beliefs and views. This may occur in everyday settings, as when two friends are watching the same movie, but also in more consequential circumstances, such as when people interpret the same news differently based on their political views. The role of subjective knowledge in altering how the brain processes narratives has been explored mainly in controlled settings. I will present two projects that examines neural mechanisms underlying narrative interpretation “in the wild” -- how responses differ between two groups of people who interpret the same narrative in two coherent, but opposing ways. In the first project we manipulated participant’s prior knowledge to make them interpret the narrative differently, and found that responses in high-order areas, including the default mode network, language areas and subsets of the mirror neuron system, tend to be similar among people who share the same interpretation, but different from people with an opposing interpretation. In contrast to the active manipulation of participants’ interpretation in the first study, in the second (ongoing) project we examine these processes in a more ecological setting. Taking advantage of people’s natural tendencies to interpret the world through their own (political) filters, we examine these mechanisms while measuring their brain response to political movie clips. These studies are intended to deepen our understanding of the differences in subjective construal processes, by mapping their underlying brain mechanisms.


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