For the first time, scientists can scan a person's brain and deduce whom a person is thinking of. With further research, such a technique could help diagnose and treat autism and other social interaction disorders.
Cognitive neuroscientist Nathan Spreng and his colleagues from Cornell University carried out the research, first giving 19 volunteers descriptions of four imaginary characters. Each character had a range of personalities: Half were agreeable and cooperated with others, while the other half were described as disagreeable, cold and aloof. Additionally, half were described as gregarious and extroverted, while others were depicted as timid introverts. Scientists also gave the characters popular names and matched them to the volunteer's gender.
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Researchers then asked participants to predict how each character might behave in a variety of social scenarios, such as someone spilling a drink at a bar or a homeless veteran asking for change. While doing so, scientists scanned each subject's brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).