Researchers have found that part of the brain is dedicated specifically to understand people around us. It is in this region of the brain that tells us if we can deceive other people or not.
The research team, from Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Science, asked volunteers to play a game of poker against a computer and human subjects. Researchers hooked the players to an fMRI brain scan.
They found that specific areas of brain lit up when people were playing poker against humans as opposed to computers.
The temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) is the area that carried the information about decisions related to dealing with human competitors. Previous studies have shown that stimulating activity in the right TPJ increases hostility against another human while stimulating activity in the left TPJ decreases hostile attitudes against others.
Researchers were able to predict when the players in the poker game will bluff to the human competitors just by looking at the activity in this region.
In general, they found that players were more likely to pay attention in the game if they were competing against human competitors.
According to lead researcher McKell Carter, PhD, from Duke University, the TPJ region of the brain processes information like "is this another person?"
"There are fundamental neural differences between decisions in social and non-social situations. Social information may cause our brain to play by different rules than non-social information, and it will be important for both scientists and policymakers to understand what causes us to approach a decision in a social or a non-social manner," said senior author Scott Huettel, the Hubbard professor of psychology & neuroscience at Duke.
The present study can help researchers understand how humans relate to each other. The brain scans of the players showed that regions that are specific to social behavior processed other information as well.
"Understanding how the brain identifies important competitors and collaborators -- those people who are most relevant for our future behavior -- will lead to new insights into social phenomena like dehumanization and empathy," Huettel added.