A new study led by Dr. Gregory Berns, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, was published June 22 in the online edition of Biological Psychiatry that cast light on a topic that psychologists have puzzled over for more than half a century: social conformity.
In the study, 32 participants were being asked to say what they see in a picture. Many of the studied subjects caved in to group pressure as 41 percent of the time they went along with the group on wrong answers ( the wrong answers were fake answers given by actors for the purpose of the test).
The study's findings show that seeing is believing what the group tells you to believe. Using functional M.R.I. scanners that can peer into the working brain, the researchers found that social conformity showed up in the brain as activity in regions that are entirely devoted to perception while there was no activity in brain areas that make conscious decisions. But independence of judgment - standing up for one's beliefs - showed up as activity in brain areas involved in emotion, suggesting that there is a cost for going against the group.