Beware stalkers, these neuroscientists can tell who you’re thinking of. Or, at least, the kind of personality he or she might have.
As a social species humans are highly attuned to the behavior of others around them. It’s a survival mechanism, helping us to safely navigate the social world. That awareness involves both evaluating people and predicting how they will behave in different situations in the future (“Uh oh, don’t get him started!”). But just how does the brain represent another person’s personality?
To answer this question a group of scientists at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology (whatever that means) used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure neuronal activity while people thought about different types of personalities. The 19 participants – all young adults – learned about four protagonists, all of whom had considerably different personalities, based on agreeableness (e.g., “Likes to cooperate with others”) and extraversion (“Is sometimes shy”). They were then presented different scenarios (such as sitting on a bus with no empty seats and watching an elderly person get on) and asked to imagine how each of the four protagonists would react.