Christmas spirit explained by scientists


Lights are twinkling on the tree, the shops are stuffed with mince pies and you've probably already had one too many at your work party. That's right, it's Christmas - the time of year for us to all either rock our snowman jumpers with pride or pick on the one person we know who doesn't get into the festive spirit. However, according to scientists our love of Santa or devotion to Scrooge is actually predetermined thanks to a specific area of our brain.

A team from Copenhagen University decided to investigate the concept of Christmas spirit. They studied 20 people, half of who didn't celebrate 25 December, showing them images and monitoring their brains to see how they were impacted. Some of the pictures were festive, others weren't.

The scans used blood oxygenation and flow to measure brain activity, enabling the team to pinpoint which areas of the brain were affected by the photos. Eighty four were shown in total, with six consecutive ones having a festive theme and the next six not.

Afterwards the group filled in questionnaires, detailing if and how they celebrate Christmas and how they feel about Yuletide.

The results allowed half the participants to be placed in a 'Christmas group' and the others in a non-festive one. The first lot celebrated the season and liked it, while the others didn't and had more neutral feelings.

Looking at the brain scans, it became clear that five areas in the Christmas group's brains lit up which didn't in the other people's. Among the portions were ones which deal with spirituality and physical senses.

"Although merry and intriguing, these findings should be interpreted with caution," the team explained.

"Something as magical and complex as the Christmas spirit cannot be fully explained by, or limited to, the mapped brain activity alone."

© Cover Media

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