Brain mechanisms of persuasion: how 'expert power' modulates memory and attitudes
Human behaviour is affected by various forms of persuasion. The general persuasive effect of high expertise of the communicator, often referred to as ’expert power’, is well documented. We found that a single exposure to a combination of an expert and an object leads to a long-lasting positive effect on memory for and attitude towards the object. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we probed the neural processes predicting these behavioural effects. Expert context was associated with distributed left-lateralized brain activity in prefrontal and temporal cortices related to active semantic elaboration. Furthermore, experts enhanced subsequent memory effects in the medial temporal lobe (i.e. in hippocampus and parahippocampal gyrus) involved in memory formation. Experts also affected subsequent attitude effects in the caudate nucleus involved in trustful behaviour, reward processing and learning. These results may suggest that the persuasive effect of experts is mediated by modulation of caudate activity resulting in a re-evaluation of the object in terms of its perceived value. Results extend our view of the functional role of the dorsal striatum in social interaction and enable us to make the first steps toward a neuroscientific model of persuasion.