During the hustle and bustle of this busy time of year most of us are spending a significant amount of time with our family over the holidays. Now, the season is not complete without a customary family fight, but has anyone ever stopped to ask themselves why arguments can get so easily heated with our family members?
Researchers, Steven Platek and Shelly Kemp have recently raised this very question. The study is the first to compare brain activity associated with seeing relatives with that linked to seeing friends and strangers. It suggests our feelings about biological relatives are at least somewhat primal. Their research analyzed MRI brain scans while subjects viewed images of relatives, family, friends, themselves and morphed images. Results showed that our brain tends to rank people socially and our family takes first place. These findings may help to explain the phenomena that our relatives get under our skin more easily than others. Also, brain scans demonstrated that images of our relatives are processed in parts of the brain related to self-reference, which suggests that we may take things more personally due to a resemblance to family members. While we may tolerate a friend's loud laughter or snoring, for example, we may have less patience with a relative because we judge them similarly to how we judge ourselves.
Consequently, this is something to bear in mind the next time you might feel your blood pressure rising in response to your family. Although this research is informative, I’m still interested to identify the point at which a stranger becomes a friend or a friend becomes a relative in terms of brain activity?
Visiting family warps your brain, study says