Psychologists slam TV program: Association of brain’s amygdala and fear has gone to far
|January 29, 2012||Posted by News under Mind, Neuroscience, News|
In “The Amygdala And Fear Are Not The Same Thing” ( Association for Psychological Science, January 26, 2012), we learn,
In a 2007 episode of the television show Boston Legal, a character claimed to have figured out that a cop was racist because his amygdala activated – displaying fear, when they showed him pictures of black people. This link between the amygdala and fear – especially a fear of others unlike us, has gone too far, not only in pop culture, but also in psychological science, say the authors of a new paper which will be published in the February issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Indeed, many experiments have found that the amygdala is active when people are afraid. But it also activates at other times, for example in response to pleasant photographs and happy faces.
The misconception came from how scientists first approached studying the brain. A lot of people came to the amygdala from the study of fear, says Wil Cunningham of Ohio State University, who co wrote the new paper with Tobias Brosch of New York University. “It’s a great emotion to study because it’s very important, evolutionarily, and we know a lot about fear in animals,” Cunningham says. Almost every study of fear finds that the amygdala is active. But that doesn’t mean every spark of activity in the amygdala means the person is afraid.
Mind you, once clear heads get started on TV, there won’t be anything but the live sports left. Hard to fake some of that.
Popular culture idea of amygdala:
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allan at Brains on Purpose