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Think Your Team is Best? It’s All in Your Head

Rick Stewart, Getty Images

As the Super Bowl approaches, fans of both the Patriots and the Giants are preparing for a fierce battle, and each group thinks their team is far superior to the other. New research could reveal why.

Pascal Molenberghs at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, divided 24 volunteers into two teams and had them judge the speed of hand actions performed by two people, one from each team.

No surprise here: most of the volunteers were biased toward their own team, and judged their players as faster — even when the two actions were performed at identical speeds.

But brain scans taken during the experiment showed the bias arose from differences in brain activity during perception of the hand action and wasn’t actually rooted in a logical decision-making process.

So what does it all mean?

Louise Newman, a psychologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, says the findings, which will appear in Human Brain Mapping, is an important step to unraveling the mechanisms of how people develop perceptions of “in-groups” and “out-groups” — which could even lead to a greater understanding of things like racism and discrimination.

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