Losing argument? Your brain may be ‘too stressed out’ to disagree

Some people think they’re always right. Others seem to find themselves on the wrong side of every argument.

But according to a recent article published online by the Sydney Morning Herald, neuroscientists at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, have discovered that some people simply agree with others to avoid the mental stress of an ongoing disagreement.

"It has to do with autonomy and agreeing for the sake of agreeing," said lead author Juan Dominguez, MD, and his colleagues from the university. "In a relationship you might find yourself agreeing more often with your partner when making decisions even if you hold a different opinion. This might be good for the relationship in the short term, but not necessarily good for you or the relationship in the long term.”

Dominguez and his team used MRI to observe the brain activity of participants as they indicated whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of true or false statements about biology, history, medicine and physics. They found that people who rarely disagreed with others had increased brain activity in areas associated with anxiety when they actually did disagree with a statement, something that was absent in the brains of those who frequently disagreed with others.

"Having a lot of trouble disagreeing due to heightened mental stress may be indicative of an array of emotional, attitudinal or social issues comprising an individual's ability to make autonomous choices,” the researchers said. “This can potentially lead to poor decision-making, anxiety, or difficulties in interpersonal relationships.”

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