Scientists looked at how the brain resolves abstract ideological problems.
Using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), researchers safely shut down certain groups of neurones in the brains of volunteers.
Researchers found the technique radically altered religious perceptions and prejudice.
Belief in God was reduced almost by a third, while participants became 28.5 per cent less bothered by immigration numbers.
Magnetic waves were used to shut down certain groups of neurones in the brain
“We wanted to find out whether a brain region that is linked with solving concrete problems, like deciding how to move one’s body to overcome an obstacle, is also involved in solving abstract problems addressed by ideology.”
The scientists targeted the posterior medial frontal cortex, a brain region a few inches up from the forehead that is associated with detecting and responding to problems.
Researchers found the technique radically altered religious perceptions and prejudice
These findings are very striking
Dr Izuma said: “We decided to remind people of death because previous research has shown that people turn to religion for comfort in the face of death.
“As expected, we found that when we experimentally turned down the posterior medial frontal cortex, people were less inclined to reach for comforting religious ideas despite having been reminded of death.”
Dr Izuma said: “When we disrupted the brain region that usually helps detect and respond to threats, we saw a less negative, less ideologically motivated reaction to the critical author and his opinions.”
The experiment changed people’s opinions on immigrants, claimed scientists
Lead author Dr Colin Holbrook, form the the University of California at Los Angeles, said: “These findings are very striking, and consistent with the idea that brain mechanisms that evolved for relatively basic threat-response functions are re-purposed to also produce ideological reactions.”