The researchers studied the brain activity of the study’s participants as they viewed photos of friends or acquaintances, looked at objects photographed at different distances, and read phrases referring to the immediate or more distant future, the article explains. The study compared patterns of activity within regions of the brain, which “allows you to look at not just where in the brain, but how information might be organized in that area,” says Carolyn Parkinson, a graduate student in Professor Thalia Wheatley’s lab and the paper’s lead author.
Wheatley, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, tells National Geographic, “Our paper demonstrates that the human brain evolved to make a critical decision about proximity to self: Is this thing happening right here, right now, to me or someone close to me? In other words, why should I care?”
The paper was recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Read the full story, published 2/3/14 by National Geographic.