For successful communication, we need to understand the external world consistently with others. This task requires sufficiently similar cognitive schemas or psychological perspectives that act as filters to guide the selection, interpretation and storage of sensory information, perceptual objects and events. Here we show that when individuals adopt a similar psychological perspective during natural viewing, their brain activity becomes synchronized in specific brain regions. We measured brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) from 33 healthy participants who viewed a 10-min movie twice, assuming once a ‘social’ (detective) and once a ‘non-social’ (interior decorator) perspective to the movie events. Pearson's correlation coefficient was used to derive multisubject voxelwise similarity measures (inter-subject correlations; ISCs) of functional MRI data. We used k-nearest-neighbor and support vector machine classifiers as well as a Mantel test on the ISC matrices to reveal brain areas wherein ISC predicted the participants' current perspective. ISC was stronger in several brain regions—most robustly in the parahippocampal gyrus, posterior parietal cortex and lateral occipital cortex—when the participants viewed the movie with similar rather than different perspectives. Synchronization was not explained by differences in visual sampling of the movies, as estimated by eye gaze. We propose that synchronous brain activity across individuals adopting similar psychological perspectives could be an important neural mechanism supporting shared understanding of the environment.
- Psychological perspective
- Inter-subject correlation