Optimism and pessimism hardwired in the brain
Researchers have said that the ability to stay positive and of being negative may be hardwired in the brain.
Jason Moser, lead investigator and assistant professor of psychology, said that it's the first time that they've been able to find a brain marker that really distinguishes negative thinkers from positive thinkers.
For the study, 71 female participants were shown graphic images and asked to put a positive spin on them while their brain activity was recorded. Participants were shown a masked man holding a knife to a woman's throat, for example, and told one potential outcome was the woman breaking free and escaping.
The participants were surveyed beforehand to establish who tended to think positively and who thought negatively or worried. Sure enough, the brain reading of the positive thinkers was much less active than that of the worriers during the experiment.
"The worriers actually showed a paradoxical backfiring effect in their brains when asked to decrease their negative emotions," Moser said. "This suggests they have a really hard time putting a positive spin on difficult situations and actually make their negative emotions worse even when they are asked to think positively."
The study focused on women because they are twice as likely as men to suffer from anxiety related problems and previously reported sex differences in brain structure and function could have obscured the results.
The study has been published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
(Posted on 03-04-2014)