Brain activity and cognitive control

Cognitive Control; an international team of researchers has found that people have lower levels of activity; but in brain in areas related to cognitive control and reasoning when they are focusing on sacred values. In their paper published in Royal Society Open Science; but the group describes their study involving brain scans of terrorist sympathizers and what they found.

Prior research and anecdotal evidence have shown that once a person develops sacred values; but regarding a particular topic, it is difficult to get them to change their minds. Prior research has also shown that people who have certain sacred values are often more willing to fight and die for a cause than others.

In this new effort, the researchers sought to learn more about what goes on in the minds of people; but who have expressed a willingness to die for a cause that is based on sacred values in this case; but sympathizers of an Al-Qaeda offshoot called Lashkar-et Taiba.

Brain and cognitive control

The researchers note that sometimes, people say and do things; that are contrary to what they are truly thinking or feeling. For this reason, they chose to recruit several sympathizers for brain scan testing. They claim that neuroimaging rules out posturing by individuals because brain signals related to brain processing cannot be controlled.

Testing involved asking the volunteers questions while they were undergoing fMRI scanning. The questions concerned their sacred values, such as whether they would be willing to fight; and die for these values, and non-sacred values as a comparison.

The researchers report that they found that when the volunteers were being asked questions related to their sacred values; there were lower levels of brain activity in areas related to reasoning and cognitive control. Prior research has shown that such areas are typically involved in processing consequences and calculating costs.

Strongly held sacred values

They report that they also found that if they told the volunteers that other sympathizers; but they knew were less willing to die for a cause, their own willingness to do so dropped, as well. The researchers claim their findings show that there are distinct processes that occur in the brain; but when a person is focused on issues related to strongly held sacred values.

The construct of ‘Sacred Values’ has a relatively long-standing tradition in sociology, anthropology and history and; but in the last decades, it has accumulated a compelling experimental corpus in social and political psychology. In recent years, this concept has been revisited and enriched by historical and anthropological analyses in combination; but with a series of experiments carried out in the context of deep-seated political conflicts; but such as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the Iranian nuclear programme; the Muslim–Hindu conflict, as well as in other forms of cultural conflict.