- Professor Manos Tsakiris
- Professor of Neuroscience
- Central Services of the School
- Email address:
- Publication Details
Publications available on SAS-space:
Date Details Feb-2021 Computational and neurocognitive approaches to the political brain: key insights and future avenues for political neuroscience
Although the study of political behaviour has been traditionally restricted to the social sciences, new advances in political neuroscience and computational cognitive science highlight that the biological sciences can offer crucial insights into the roots of ideological thought and action. Echoing the dazzling diversity of human ideologies, this theme issue seeks to reflect the multiplicity of theoretical and methodological approaches to understanding the nature of the political brain. Cutting-edge research along three thematic strands is presented, including (i) computational approaches that zoom in on fine-grained mechanisms underlying political behaviour, (ii) neurocognitive perspectives that harness neuroimaging and psychophysiological techniques to study ideological processes, and (iii) behavioural studies and policy-minded analyses of such understandings across cultures and across ideological domains. Synthesizing these findings together, the issue elucidates core questions regarding the nature of uncertainty in political cognition, the mechanisms of social influence and the cognitive structure of ideological beliefs. This offers key directions for future biologically grounded research as well as a guiding map for citizens, psychologists and policymakers traversing the uneven landscape of modern polarization, misinformation, intolerance and dogmatism.
Feb-2021 Visceral politics: a theoretical and empirical proof of concept
While the study of affect and emotion has a long history in psychological sciences and neuroscience, the very question of how visceral states have come to the forefront of politics remains poorly understood. The concept of visceral politics captures how the physiological nature of our engagement with the social world influences how we make decisions, just as socio-political forces recruit our physiology to influence our socio-political behaviour. This line of research attempts to bridge the psychophysiological mechanisms that are responsible for our affective states with the historical socio-cultural context in which such states are experienced. We review findings and hypotheses at the intersections of life sciences, social sciences and humanities to shed light on how and why people come to experience such emotions in politics and what if any are their behavioural consequences. To answer these questions, we provide insights from predictive coding accounts of interoception and emotion and a proof of concept experiment to highlight the role of visceral states in political behaviour.
Nov-2021 The Self in the Mind’s Eye: Revealing How We Truly See Ourselves Through Reverse Correlation
Is there a way to visually depict the image people “see” of themselves in their minds’ eyes? And if so, what can these mental images tell us about ourselves? We used a computational reverse-correlation technique to explore individuals’ mental “self-portraits” of their faces and body shapes in an unbiased, data-driven way (total N = 116 adults). Self-portraits were similar to individuals’ real faces but, importantly, also contained clues to each person’s self-reported personality traits, which were reliably detected by external observers. Furthermore, people with higher social self-esteem produced more true-to-life self-portraits. Unlike face portraits, body portraits had negligible relationships with individuals’ actual body shape, but as with faces, they were influenced by people’s beliefs and emotions. We show how psychological beliefs and attitudes about oneself bias the perceptual representation of one’s appearance and provide a unique window into the internal mental self-representation—findings that have important implications for mental health and visual culture.
Jan-2022 National identity predicts public health support during a global pandemic
Changing collective behaviour and supporting non-pharmaceutical interventions is an important component in mitigating virus transmission during a pandemic. In a large international collaboration (Study 1, N = 49,968 across 67 countries), we investigated self-reported factors associated with public health behaviours (e.g., spatial distancing and stricter hygiene) and endorsed public policy interventions (e.g., closing bars and restaurants) during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic (April-May 2020). Respondents who reported identifying more strongly with their nation consistently reported greater engagement in public health behaviours and support for public health policies. Results were similar for representative and non-representative national samples. Study 2 (N = 42 countries) conceptually replicated the central finding using aggregate indices of national identity (obtained using the World Values Survey) and a measure of actual behaviour change during the pandemic (obtained from Google mobility reports). Higher levels of national identification prior to the pandemic predicted lower mobility during the early stage of the pandemic (r = −0.40). We discuss the potential implications of links between national identity, leadership, and public health for managing COVID-19 and future pandemics.
Feb-2023 Changing minds about climate change: a pervasive role for domain-general metacognition
Updating one’s beliefs about the causes and effects of climate change is crucial for altering attitudes and behaviours. Importantly, metacognitive abilities - insight into the (in)correctness of one’s beliefs- play a key role in the formation of polarised beliefs. We here aimed at investigated the role of metacognition in changing beliefs about climate change. To that end, we focused on the role of domain-general and domain-specific metacognition in updating prior beliefs about climate change across the spectrum of climate change scepticism. We also considered the role of how climate science is communicated in the form of textual or visuo-textual presentations. We asked two large US samples to perform a perceptual decision-making task (to assess domain-general decision-making and metacognitive abilities. They next performed a belief-updating task, where they were exposed to good and bad news about climate change and we asked them about their beliefs and their updating. Lastly, they completed a series of questionnaires probing their attitudes to climate change. We show that climate change scepticism is associated with differences in domain-general as well as domain-specific metacognitive abilities. Moreover, domain-general metacognitive sensitivity influenced belief updating in an asymmetric way: lower domain-general metacognition decreased the updating of prior beliefs, especially in the face of negative evidence. Our findings highlight the role of metacognitive failures in revising erroneous beliefs about climate change and point to their adverse social effects.
Mar-2023 Re-cognizing the new self: The neurocognitive plasticity of self-processing following facial transplantation
The face is a defining feature of our individuality, crucial for our social interactions. But what happens when the face connected to the self is radically altered or replaced? We address the plasticity of self-face recognition in the context of facial transplantation. While the acquisition of a new face following facial transplantation is a medical fact, the experience of a new identity is an unexplored psychological outcome. We traced the changes in self-face recognition before and after facial transplantation to understand if and how the transplanted face gradually comes to be perceived and recognized as the recipient’s own new face. Neurobehavioral evidence documents a strong representation of the pre-injury appearance pre-operatively, while following the transplantation, the recipient incorporates the new face into his self-identity. The acquisition of this new facial identity is supported by neural activity in medial frontal regions that are considered to integrate psychological and perceptual aspects of the self.
Jun-2023 Mapping moral language on US presidential primary campaigns reveals rhetorical networks of political division and unity
During political campaigns, candidates use rhetoric to advance competing visions and assessments of their country. Research reveals that the moral language used in this rhetoric can significantly influence citizens’ political attitudes and behaviors; however, the moral language actually used in the rhetoric of elites during political campaigns remains understudied. Using a data set of every tweet (N = 139, 412) published by 39 US presidential candidates during the 2016 and 2020 primary elections, we extracted moral language and constructed network models illustrating how candidates’ rhetoric is semantically connected. These network models yielded two key discoveries. First, we find that party affiliation clusters can be reconstructed solely based on the moral words used in candidates’ rhetoric. Within each party, popular moral values are expressed in highly similar ways, with Democrats emphasizing careful and just treatment of individuals and Republicans emphasizing in-group loyalty and respect for social hierarchies. Second, we illustrate the ways in which outsider candidates like Donald Trump can separate themselves during primaries by using moral rhetoric that differs from their parties’ common language. Our findings demonstrate the functional use of strategic moral rhetoric in a campaign context and show that unique methods of text network analysis are broadly applicable to the study of campaigns and social movements.
- Research Projects & Supervisions
The (trans)formation of a European sense of solidarity: Visceral politics and social belonging in a comparative European context Institute of Philosophy
Project period: 01-Sep-2020 - 31-Aug-2023
Research interests: Philosophy, Politics
Centre for the Politics of Feelings Central Services of the School
Project period: 01-Sep-2021 - 31-Aug-2024
Research interests: Philosophy, Politics