Imaging the impossible: An fMRI study of impossible causal relationships in magic tricks

Parris, Ben A. and Kuhn, Gustav and Mizon, Guy A. and Benattayallah, Abdelmalek and Hodgson, Tim L. (2009) Imaging the impossible: An fMRI study of impossible causal relationships in magic tricks. NeuroImage, 45 (3). pp. 1033-1039. ISSN 1053-8119

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Imaging the impossible: an fMRI study of impossible causal relationships in magic tricks
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Abstract

Understanding causal relationships and violations of those relationships is fundamental to learning about the
world around us. Over time some of these relationships become so firmly established that they form part of
an implicit belief system about what is possible and impossible in the world. Previous studies investigating
the neural correlates of violations of learned relationships have focused on relationships that were taskspecific and probabilistic. In contrast, the present study uses magic-trick perception as a means of
investigating violations of relationships that are long-established, deterministic, and that form part of the
aforementioned belief system. Compared to situations in which expected causal relationships are observed,
magic trick perception recruited dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC),
brain regions associated with the detection of conflict and the implementation of cognitive control. These
activations were greater in the left hemisphere, supporting a role for this hemisphere in the interpretation of
complex events. DLPFC is more greatly activated by magic tricks than by surprising events, but not more greatly activated by surprising than non surprising events, suggesting that this region plays a special role in
causality processing. The results suggest a role for cognitive control regions in the left hemisphere in a
neurobiology of disbelief.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Understanding causal relationships and violations of those relationships is fundamental to learning about the world around us. Over time some of these relationships become so firmly established that they form part of an implicit belief system about what is possible and impossible in the world. Previous studies investigating the neural correlates of violations of learned relationships have focused on relationships that were taskspecific and probabilistic. In contrast, the present study uses magic-trick perception as a means of investigating violations of relationships that are long-established, deterministic, and that form part of the aforementioned belief system. Compared to situations in which expected causal relationships are observed, magic trick perception recruited dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), brain regions associated with the detection of conflict and the implementation of cognitive control. These activations were greater in the left hemisphere, supporting a role for this hemisphere in the interpretation of complex events. DLPFC is more greatly activated by magic tricks than by surprising events, but not more greatly activated by surprising than non surprising events, suggesting that this region plays a special role in causality processing. The results suggest a role for cognitive control regions in the left hemisphere in a neurobiology of disbelief.
Keywords:fMRI, imaging, causal relationships
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C860 Neuropsychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:4811
Deposited By: Alison Wilson
Deposited On:29 Nov 2011 17:45
Last Modified:13 Mar 2013 09:03

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