Bad Movies Are Changing the Shape of Your Brain — Literally

Illustration for article titled Bad Movies Are Changing the Shape of Your Brain — Literally

Those Godzilla movies and Mork and Mindy reruns you grew up watching have altered the way you think on a biological level. At least, that's the implication of a controversial new study MIT researchers announced today, which showed that culture changes the way your brain is wired, and how you think about visual problems. In the study, a group of people born in the US were asked to do a visual puzzle in an MRI brain scanner — the results were compared with a group of recent immigrants from East Asia doing the same task. The two groups used very different parts of their brains to do the same thing.


Eurekalert reports:

Subjects were shown a sequence of stimuli consisting of lines within squares and were asked to compare each stimulus with the previous one. In some trials, they judged whether the lines were the same length regardless of the surrounding squares (an absolute judgment of individual objects independent of context). In other trials, they decided whether the lines were in the same proportion to the squares, regardless of absolute size (a relative judgment of interdependent objects) . . . Two groups showed different patterns of brain activation when performing these tasks. Americans, when making relative judgments that are typically harder for them, activated brain regions involved in attention-demanding mental tasks. They showed much less activation of these regions when making the more culturally familiar absolute judgments. East Asians showed the opposite tendency, engaging the brain's attention system more for absolute judgments than for relative judgments.


No word on how growing up absorbing all those fights between Ghidorah and Godzilla affected my judgment. [Eurekalert]

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Josh Wimmer

@garro: It's been suggested that the way culture shapes the mind is why Eastern Europe and Russia became such a hotbed of physicists in the 20th century: The average Western brain was conditioned to see things linearly and in terms of efficient cause (that's perhaps not as true as it used to be), which drives Newtonian physics; the Easterners were better at seeing simultaneous configuration, which is essential for Einsteinian physics.