How Our Brain Reacts to Opinions

Psychology dissertation honored by Westfälisch-Lippischen Universitätsgesellschaft (University Society of Westphalia-Lippe)

In his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Sebastian Schindler uses neuroscientific methods to research the identity and skill of one’s conversation partners influence the processing of the information heard. His advisor was Professor Johanna Kißler, who heads the research group Affective Neuropsychology at CITEC. The University Society of Bielefeld chose Schindler’s dissertation for the award.

Dr. Sebastian Schindler received the 2017 dissertation prize from the Bielefeld University Society. Photo: Schindler Each year, the University Society awards prizes for outstanding dissertations that have received summa cum laude honors. The award comes with a monetary prize of 1,000€.
Schindler’s dissertation is titled “Meaning in Words – How Social Context Amplifies Processing of Emotional Language.” At the center of his research is the question of how the human brain reacts to the opinions of others. Schindler also sees parallels in his work to expressions of opinion in social media. So-called “social bots” or “chat bots” automatically create texts expressing certain opinions in order to shape polls or online discussions. The bots influence the readers without them even being aware of it.

In experimental studies, Schindler analyzed brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG) measurements. By recording brain activity, he can show how quickly the brain reacts to feedback from different conversation partners, and with so-called “source reconstructions,” he can also ascertain which parts of the brain are involved in these activations. “It’s not only emotional content that has an influence on how humans process language,” says Sebastian Schindler. “The human brain considers the context in which the communication is taking place to a much larger degree.” The findings of his dissertation are particularly relevant for linguistic research and psychology.

Schindler worked at CITEC’s Graduate School until June 2016. He is now at Ghent University, where he is working with Gilles Pourtois on neuroscientific studies of basal mechanisms of attention and emotion.

More Information is available online at:

Sebastian Schindler’s dissertation (PDF):

Homepage of the Westfälisch-Lippischen Universitätsgesellschaft (University Society of Westphalia-Lippe):

Information on Ghent University: