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. 2017 Mar;28(3):307-319.
doi: 10.1177/0956797616682029. Epub 2017 Jan 1.

Same Story, Different Story

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Free PMC article

Same Story, Different Story

Yaara Yeshurun et al. Psychol Sci. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Differences in people's beliefs can substantially impact their interpretation of a series of events. In this functional MRI study, we manipulated subjects' beliefs, leading two groups of subjects to interpret the same narrative in different ways. We found that responses in higher-order brain areas-including the default-mode network, language areas, and subsets of the mirror neuron system-tended to be similar among people who shared the same interpretation, but different from those of people with an opposing interpretation. Furthermore, the difference in neural responses between the two groups at each moment was correlated with the magnitude of the difference in the interpretation of the narrative. This study demonstrates that brain responses to the same event tend to cluster together among people who share the same views.

Keywords: context; interpretation; narrative; neuroimaging; theory of mind.

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Experimental procedure and design. Prior to listening to a recording of a short story in the scanner (a), subjects were placed in two groups: In one, subjects were primed to interpret the story as being about a wife cheating on her husband; in the other, subjects were primed to interpret the story as being about a husband being paranoid that his faithful wife is actually cheating on him. After listening to the story, subjects completed a story-comprehension questionnaire outside the scanner. In each voxel, we calculated the mean response of the 20 subjects in the cheating condition and the mean response of the 20 subjects in the paranoia condition (b), and then calculated the Euclidean distance between the activations in these groups’ time courses. To test whether this distance was significant, we bootstrapped a null distribution (100,000 times) by calculating the Euclidean distance between two randomly sampled pseudogroups. ROI = region of interest.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Behavioral results demonstrating the context effect. The graph in (a) shows the mean percentage of correct responses to context-independent questions (i.e., that did not depend on subjects’ assignment to condition). The graphs in (b) show the mean percentage of responses in each condition that were appropriate to the cheating context (left) and paranoia context (right). Asterisks indicate significant differences between conditions (p < .05). Error bars represent ±1 SE.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Neural results demonstrating the context effect. Example mean blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) repetition-time (TR) courses for subjects in the cheating and paranoia conditions (a) were sampled from one voxel in the precuneus and one voxel in the right auditory cortex (A1). The bar graph shows the Euclidean distance between the two time courses, separately for each region. The asterisk indicates a significant difference between the two conditions (p < .05), as indicated by the null distribution. The Euclidean distance maps across the whole brain (b) show regions in which activations differed significantly between conditions (minimum cluster size > 10 mm2; p values are false-discovery-rate corrected). Euclidean distance between the two conditions within mentalizing-network regions of interest (c) were defined by the false-belief localizer, the why-versus-how localizer, and the Neurosynth localizer. For each localizer, asterisks indicate significant differences between conditions (p < .05, false-discovery-rate corrected), as indicated by the null-distribution threshold. dmPFC = dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, Hipp = hippocampus, PCC = posterior cingulate cortex, PMC = premotor cortex, STS = superior temporal sulcus, TPJ = temporoparietal junction, vlPFC = ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, vmPFC = ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
Map of classification accuracy within the voxels in which there was a significant distance between activations in the two conditions. dmPFC = dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, Hipp = hippocampus, PCC = posterior cingulate cortex, PMC = premotor cortex, STS = superior temporal sulcus, TPJ = temporoparietal junction, vlPFC = ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, vmPFC = ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.
Correlation between the difference in interpretation and the difference in neural response. Ratings of the difference between the cheating and paranoia conditions in the beliefs, emotions, and intentions attributed to the characters (a) are shown as a function of repetition time (TR; i.e., 1.5 s) during the audio recording. The Euclidean distance between voxels in which activation significantly differed between the two conditions (b) is shown as a function of TR. The brain maps (c) show voxels with correlations between neural differences and differences in the beliefs of the characters, emotions of the characters, and both. Colored regions were significant (p < .05, false-discovery-rate corrected); regions with a nonsignificant correlation are marked in white. dmPFC = dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, Hipp = hippocampus, PCC = posterior cingulate cortex, PMC = premotor cortex, STS = superior temporal sulcus, TPJ = temporoparietal junction, vlPFC = ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.

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