A laughing crowd affects how your brain responds to insults

Posted on May 4, 2016

Marte Otten and her colleagues asked participants to read insults and compliments presented on-screen one word at a time. Half these insults and compliments featured the silhouette of a crowd of people at the bottom of each screen, and the end of the insult or compliment was followed immediately by a final screen showing the phrase "and they feel the same way" together with the sound of laughter. Throughout this entire process, the researchers recorded the participants' brainwaves using EEG.

The participants' brains appeared to register the difference between insults and compliments incredibly quickly. Within 300 to 400ms after the onset of the first insulting or complimentary word, the change in the part of the brain involved in emotional processing (the LPP) was large. Moreover, when there was the sound of laughter, the size of the LPP was even greater in the insults condition, whereas the compliments condition was unchanged. In other words, insults almost immediately prompt more emotional processing in the brain than compliments, and this more intense processing is accentuated rapidly by a public context and the sound of laughter.

The researchers said their findings are "highly relevant for research that focuses on negative interpersonal interactions such as bullying, or interpersonal and intergroup conflict." They added: "While the insulted is still busy reading the unfolding insult, the extra sting of publicity is already encoded and integrated in the brain."

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Category(s):Bullying

Source material from Research digest


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