• Question: Do our brains react to things we like and dislike?

    Asked by anon-361762 on 30 Mar 2023.
    • Photo: Eileen Xu

      Eileen Xu answered on 30 Mar 2023:

      Definitely. It’s really cool how our brains react to positive and negative stimuli, and how we then form associations with good or bad things and know to approach or avoid them.

    • Photo: Laura Joyner

      Laura Joyner answered on 31 Mar 2023:

      100%! One way is our ‘affective reactions’ (which is linked to emotion), which we frequency use as a cue to make judgements and behaviours. A lot of the time we won’t even notice it happening, but when we do it might be because we *really like* or *really dislike* something.

      So for instance, if you were listening to the radio and a song comes on you really don’t like – you might experience a *feeling* or a sense that you don’t like it, or even an emotion like disgust, and then act on it. This is actually really important in my area of research (fake information on social media) because people tend to engage in something called ‘motivated skepticism’ – a bias where we only question information when we get a sense that something is ‘wrong’ (which might be because we dislike it).

      There are also some really cool studies on disgust that help illustrate this. For instance, Schnall et al., 2008 used a disgusting smell (e.g. ‘fart spray’) in the experimental condition to show how disgust can influence peoples judgements!