Soccer fans unite! An interesting study has just come out on the basis of sports fans loyalty to their teams and to fans of their teams. For quite a while research has been interested in questions of loyalty and fanaticism, and, though psychology has it’s theories, neurology hadn’t really touched the subject, until now.
A study was published in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal in November about altruism among sports fans. Altruism, of course, is the act of selfless concern for others. The research was done at the D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR) by head neurologist Jorge Moll. Jorge Moll has always had a passion for neurology, especially as it relates to questions in the field of psychology. The D’Or Institute for Research and Education is a neurological institute located in Brazil and headed by Jorge Moll.
In this particular study, Jorge Moll wanted to know what an MRI looked like when fans of soccer teams were asked to give money to either, themselves, a fan of their own team, or a non-fan (someone who didn’t root for either team.) The results were fascinating.
Essentially, the subject was hooked up to functional Magnetic Resonance (fMR) scanner and images of their brains were recorded during the test. They were asked to squeeze a pressure sensor when reacting to giving to any of the groups. The pressure on the squeezer was recorded as the effort put into the decision.
First, most people choose to keep the money for themselves (no surprise there), but when people gave money to team-mates the area of the brain that lit up was the orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) as well as the subgenual cingulate cortex. The subgenual cingulate cortex is responsible for lighting up when people make altruistic decisions regarding charity or family members.
This is interesting. It shows that people regard fans of the same team that they are fans of as almost a family. The areas of the brain light up that light up when giving to family. So, next time you think of your team, remember that you feel as close to fans of your team as you do family. How is that for team loyalty?