Massage therapy professionals know firsthand the shared opinions of clients can influence the success of their massage practices. Clients referring friends and acquaintances to a massage therapist is called word-of-mouth referrals, and it’s long been recognized as vital to beneficial business outcomes.

A new small-sample-size research study suggests successful referrals could benefit referring clients as well.

In a study of 28 volunteers, the reward area of subjects’ brains was activated when people agreed with their opinions. The study, published today in the journal Current Biology, suggests scientists may be able to predict how much people can be influenced by the opinions of others on the basis of the level of activity in the reward area.

“We all like getting rewards, and this is reflected in brain activity in the ventral striatum,” says first author Dr. Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn from the Centre of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University, Denmark. “Our study shows that our brains respond in a similar way when others agree with us. One interpretation is that agreement with others can be as satisfying as other, more basic, rewards.”