Us versus them mentality in football fans: Significant social defeat engages the mentalization network and disengages cognitive control areas
Social affiliation is one of the building blocks that shapes cultures and communities. This motivation contributes to the development of social bonding among individuals within a group, enjoying rights, assuming obligations, and strengthening its identity. Evidence has shown that social affiliation has inspired different social phenomena, such as wars, political movements, social struggles, among others, based on two human motivations: the ingroup love and the outgroup hate. One contemporary group to study as a proxy of social affiliation, and ingroup and outgroup motivations is the sports competition. However, this affiliation model has been poorly considered in social neuroscience research. This research aimed to shed light on the neurobiological networks that are related to social affiliation in football fans of two of the most popular Chilean football teams.
Methods: To this end, 43 male fans of two football rival teams watched videos of winning and losing goals of their favorite team while their brain activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Results: The results showed that while the activation of the reward system was observed in fans when their team scores goals against the rival, both the activation of the mentalization network and the inhibition of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex were associated with the emotional correlates of defeat in football fans.
Conclusions: Taking these findings together could contribute to a deeper understanding of social affiliation, and more importantly, of extreme affiliation phenomena, and fanaticism.
Authors: Francisco Zamorano, Patricio Carvajal-Paredes, Patricia Soto-Icaza, Ximena Stecher, César Salinas, José Antonio Muñoz-Reyes, Vladimir López, Waldemar Méndez, Joel Barrera, Gonzalo Aragón-Caqueo