Amygdala structure and the tendency to perceive the social system as legitimate and desirable

Nam, Hannah H, Jost, John T, Kaggen, Lisa, Campbell-Meiklejohn, Daniel and Van Bavel, Jay J (2017) Amygdala structure and the tendency to perceive the social system as legitimate and desirable. Nature Human Behaviour. ISSN 2397-3374

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Abstract

Individual variation in preferences to maintain vs. change the societal status quo can play out in the political realm by choosing leaders and policies that reinforce or undermine existing inequalities. We sought to understand which individuals are likely to defend or challenge inequality in society by exploring the neuroanatomical substrates of system justification tendencies. In two independent neuroimaging studies, we observed that larger bilateral amygdala volume was positively correlated with the tendency to believe that the existing social order was legitimate and desirable. These results held for members of advantaged and disadvantaged groups (men and women). Furthermore, individuals with larger amygdala volume were less likely to participate in subsequent protest movements. We ruled out alternative explanations in terms of attitudinal extremity and political orientation per se. Exploratory whole brain analyses suggested that system justification effects may extend to structures adjacent to the amygdala, including parts of the insula and orbitofrontal cortex. These findings suggest that the amygdala may provide a neural substrate for maintaining the status quo, and opens avenues for further investigation linking system justification and other neuroanatomical regions.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: amygdala, system justification, political neuroscience, brain, structure, protest
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Neuroscience
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0697 Differential psychology. Individuality. Self
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0698 Personality
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0725 Class psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0778 Psychology of values, meaning
J Political Science > JA Political science (General) > JA0071 Theory. Relation to other subjects
Q Science > QP Physiology > QP0351 Neurophysiology and neuropsychology
Q Science > QP Physiology > QP0351 Neurophysiology and neuropsychology > QP0361 Nervous system
Depositing User: Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2017 12:42
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2017 12:58
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70549

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