Making social neuroscience less WEIRD - Using fNIRS to measure neural signatures of persuasive influence in a Middle East participant sample


The large majority of social neuroscience research uses WEIRD populations—participants from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic locations. This makes it difficult to claim whether neuropsychological functions are universal or culture specific. In this study, we demonstrate one approach to addressing the imbalance by using portable neuroscience equipment in a study of persuasion conducted in Jordan with an Arabic-speaking sample. Participants were shown persuasive videos on various health and safety topics while their brain activity was measured using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Self-reported persuasiveness ratings for each video were then recorded. Consistent with previous research conducted with American subjects, this work found that activity in the dorso- medial and ventromedial prefrontal cortex predicted how persuasive participants found the videos and how much they intended to engage in the messages’ endorsed behaviors. Further, activity in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was associated with persuasiveness ratings, but only in participants for whom the message was personally relevant. Implications for these results on the understanding of the brain basis of persuasion and on future directions for neuroimaging in diverse populations are discussed.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(3)

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Postdoctoral Scholar