New research might have answered the question of where the human “gut feeling” comes from — a virtual equivalent of “Wi-Fi” in our brains that picks up “micro-signals” when we look at other people, allowing us to gather more information on them.
In an interview with The Telegraph(now listed as a premium article), University of Sheffield psychotherapy professor Digby Tantam explained that language only paints part of the picture when it comes to the way humans communicate with each other. Instead, the brain plays a key role in communication, picking up cues that allow thoughts to be communicated in words. That, he added, could be the reason why people have intuitions or a gut feeling about other people or situations that aren’t easy to justify with logic.
“We can know directly about other people’s emotions and what they are paying attention to,” said Tantam, as quoted by the Daily Mail.
“It is based on the direct connection between our brains and other people’s and between their brain and ours. I call this the ‘interbrain.'”
As explained by Tantam, communication between two human brains is an “inadvertent leak” possibly associated with the sense of smell, as the parts of the brain with the most neuron activity are found in the prefrontal cortex, which is linked with said sense. As this neuron activity is also located in an area that allows us to follow another person’s gaze, even small changes in a person’s chemistry could trigger a variety of emotions, including fear, illness, and sexual arousal, wrote The Telegraph.
Further elaborating on his “interbrain” concept, Tantam added that this might be the reason why people riding on a train have a hard time making eye contact with others. As crowded trains are packed with people trying to get to their respective destinations, our brains could potentially get overloaded with “too much subliminal information.” But in the case of autistic individuals, Tantam said that a lack of interbrain connection could tie in with the challenges they normally face as a result of their condition.
“People with autism have little or no interbrain connection. They are often able to pick up or learn what expressions mean, and yet that doesn’t seem to solve the problem of that lack of human connection.”
— Paul Bishop (@paulbishop4U) January 7, 2018
The interbrain isn’t merely responsible for otherwise unexplained gut feelings. According to Tantam, it is also what draws people together at large, fun, and/or loud gatherings such as football games, concerts, and religious ceremonies. He said that the presence of big crowds at these events could allow people to feel like “a driving being” even for a moment, experiencing transcendence and possibly explaining the origins of spirituality.
On the other hand, the interbrain phenomenon might also be linked to a number of negative emotions and activities. Citing Tantam’s new book, which is also entitled The Interbrain, The Telegraph wrote that crimes such as murder and terrorism and emotions like hate, anger, and disgust result in the interbrain being switched off, which prevents people from seeing things as another person would.
In all, the interbrain is what Tantam believes sets humans apart from other living creatures, with communications driven by the phenomenon having evolved over “millions of years.” But he also believes it’s hard for people to have a gut feeling when talking via the internet; according to the Daily Mail, video calls and other similar forms of online-based interactions could potentially be dangerous to interbrain communication.
“Emotional contagion occurs at the speed of light, not the speed of electronic transmission. Face-to-face visual input is accompanied by sound, by gesture, by the smell of sweat, by the possibility of touch, and by a connect,” said Tantam.