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A neural link between generosity and happiness


Park, Soyoung Q; Kahnt, Thorsten; Dogan, Azade; Strang, Sabrina; Fehr, Ernst; Tobler, Philippe N (2017). A neural link between generosity and happiness. Nature Communications, 8:15964.

Abstract

Generous behaviour is known to increase happiness, which could thereby motivate generosity. In this study, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging and a public pledge for future generosity to investigate the brain mechanisms that link generous behaviour with increases in happiness. Participants promised to spend money over the next 4 weeks either on others (experimental group) or on themselves (control group). Here, we report that, compared to controls, participants in the experimental group make more generous choices in an independent decision-making task and show stronger increases in self-reported happiness. Generous decisions engage the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) in the experimental more than in the control group and differentially modulate the connectivity between TPJ and ventral striatum. Importantly, striatal activity during generous decisions is directly related to changes in happiness. These results demonstrate that top–down control of striatal activity plays a fundamental role in linking commitment-induced generosity with happiness.

Abstract

Generous behaviour is known to increase happiness, which could thereby motivate generosity. In this study, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging and a public pledge for future generosity to investigate the brain mechanisms that link generous behaviour with increases in happiness. Participants promised to spend money over the next 4 weeks either on others (experimental group) or on themselves (control group). Here, we report that, compared to controls, participants in the experimental group make more generous choices in an independent decision-making task and show stronger increases in self-reported happiness. Generous decisions engage the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) in the experimental more than in the control group and differentially modulate the connectivity between TPJ and ventral striatum. Importantly, striatal activity during generous decisions is directly related to changes in happiness. These results demonstrate that top–down control of striatal activity plays a fundamental role in linking commitment-induced generosity with happiness.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Cooperation; human behaviour
Language:English
Date:July 2017
Deposited On:30 Aug 2017 16:22
Last Modified:30 Aug 2017 16:33
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2041-1723
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms15964
Related URLs:https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15964

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