“You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain dead as well,” says study co-author Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

There’s a special social dynamic that occurs in meetings, Montague says, that can not only make us feel stupid, but also make us act that way. All it takes is a colleague who seems smarter than us when he/she does a presentation, says the study’s lead author Kenneth T. Kishida, a research scientist at the institute. That can make us feel stupid — and that can get in the way of how our brains process information.