One-eyed Turks? – it’s all in the brain

OK, so I admit it, The Prospectors (when not busy Prospecting) are avid supporters of the Llanelli Scarlets  – or “one-eyed Turks” as we are known to supporters of other Welsh rugby sides. And, like most supporters, we are inclined to think that “our side” play better (and certainly more interesting) rugby than any other side.

It transpires that this well known bias amongst supporters may have a neuropsychological basis rather than simply(?) a cognitive one.

New Scientist reports this week on a study by Pascal Molenberghs at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.  He divided 24 volunteers into two teams and then asked them to judge the speed of hand actions performed by one member of each team.

Even when the hand actions were performed at exactly the same speed, the volunteers judged the actions of their own group member as faster than the other group’s member.

Brain scans showed that the brain activity (of those making the judgement) was different in the two cases – suggesting the bias arises at the perceptual stage rather than the decision-making one.

So, who knows, the moniker “one-eyed”, when referring to opposition supporters, may actually hold a grain of truth in that we may indeed perceive physical actions differently depending on which team’s actions we are watching at any moment in time.

Disappointing if the study included no control – i.e the brain scans of neutral observers who didn’t belong to either side a.k.a. “the ref”!

The Study is due to be published in Human Brain Mapping.

About Alison Kidd

Research Psychologist
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