Do you have a positive or negative reaction when visiting your family for the holidays? A new study shows that seeing or spending time with your family can trigger activity in your brain that affects how you feel about them.
This study is the first of its kind to look at brain activity related to seeing relatives, which may show why sometimes family members can get on a person’s nerves, but also why they tend to trust people that look like them.
“We like to be around people that look more like us, but we do not find them as sexually attractive,” said Steven Platek, co-author of the study. “I think it is linked to our subconscious ability to detect facial resemblances so we avoid lusting after those that may be related to us.”
Researchers conducted MRI brain scans on participants in the study where they viewed many images, including those of relatives, friends, strangers and also morphed images of themselves. In the study, researchers found that pictures of relatives and morphed images were processed in the self-reference part of the brain, while friends and strangers triggered different areas of the brain, which were linked to making important and risky decisions.
Researchers also found that the brain rates everyone socially and that relatives were at the top of the list.
“I think facial resemblance is ranked right up there in importance with attractiveness,” Platek said.
They say that we may see some people as friendlier than others because of their similarities to us in the looks department. This may also explain why we tend to take things more personally from relatives, rather than from a friend or stranger.
This study is published in the newest issue of the journal Neuropsychologia.