Attitudes toward God and immigrants can be changed by sending magnetic waves to the brain, scientists say. A bizarre experiment has shown that Christians can be forced to stop believing in God and the British can be made to embrace migrants through experiments that some may consider to be a threat to their values.
Scientists have studied how the brain solves abstract ideological problems. Using the method of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), the researchers safely turned off certain groups of neurons in the volunteers' brains.
TMS, which is used to treat depression, involves applying a large electromagnetic coil to the scalp, which creates electrical currents that stimulate nerve cells in an area of the brain involved in mood control.
The researchers found that this technique radically changed religious perceptions and prejudices.
Faith in God decreased by almost a third, and the participants in the experiment were 28.5% less worried about the number of immigrants.
Dr. Kise Izuma of the University of York said: “People often turn to ideology when faced with problems. We wanted to find out if an area of the brain that is involved in solving specific problems, such as deciding how to overcome the obstacle in solving abstract problems related to ideology."
The scientists examined the posterior medial frontal cortex, an area of the brain located several inches above the forehead that is associated with detecting and responding to problems.
Volunteers were asked to rate their belief in God, Heaven, Devil, and Hell after pre-screening to ensure they adhere to their religious beliefs.
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 disabled the posterior medial frontal cortex, people were less likely to turn to comforting religious ideas despite being reminded of death."
American participants were also shown two essays written by newly arrived immigrants, one very complementary to the United States, and the other extremely critical.
Dr. Izuma said, "When we disrupted an area of the brain that normally helps to detect and respond to threats, we saw less negative, less ideologically motivated reactions to a critical author and his opinions."
Research published in the journal Social Cognitive and Effective Neuroscience suggests that our brains use the same basic mental pathways to solve practical problems like following directions or ideological issues like immigration and religion.
The study's lead author, Dr. Colin Holbrooke of the University of California, Los Angeles, said: "These results are very startling and in line with the idea that the brain mechanisms that evolved for relatively basic threat response functions have been repurposed to produce ideological responses."