The study conducted by experts from the Emory University (USA) revealed that a person’s “sacred area” – religious beliefs, national origin, code of ethics – is a separate cognitive process of the brain.
All that is sacred for a person is processed by the area of the brain responsible for attitudes and the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thought processes, as opposed to the areas of the brain associated with processing the “cost-versus-benefit” thoughts. Gregory Burns, the leader of the experiment, talked about the success of his team and put it quite literally: “With the help of MRI, we saw how fundamental cultural values were represented in the human brain. We came up with a way to scientifically answer the question of how people make decisions concerning the eternal values and sanctities.
It is important if you want to understand better why a person behaves in one way or another in different countries with different cultures”. The experiment participants were shown statements like “You drink tea,” “You support gay marriage,” etc., and then offered to renounce their choice and take $ 100 or to agree with the first response. If the person refused to take the money, the readout of the MRI were recorded in the column “true values”. If he or she took the money, the data was recorded in the column “nothing is sacred.”
The data read by MRI showed a strong correlation between sacred values and the activation of neural systems associated with the assessment of “right-wrong” and the semantic rule search, which would work in this situation, but not with the systems associated with reward .
An interesting conclusion was made by the researchers: “The basis of public policy is sanctions and incentives, that is the “stick and carrot”. Our results show that it is unreasonable to think that a policy based on the analysis of “cost-benefit” will affect people’s behavior when it comes to their shrines, or true values, since they are handled by a completely different system of the brain than incentives.
Burns believes that in the future political and religious conflicts will occur at the biological level. Some will choose to change their biology and in such a way change their culture. The examples can already be seen today: women’s struggle for reproductive rights and gay marriage.