Human Altruism

Brain activity shows underlying motives

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Science  04 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6277, pp. 1038-1039
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6277.1038-h

In humans, two completely different motives may nevertheless lead to exactly the same behavior. Because we can't directly observe motives, modern economists often completely disregard them. However, Hein et al., using fMRI, show that different human motives can yield observable responses in the brain (see the Perspective by Gluth and Fontanesi). In empathy-based and reciprocity-based altruistic behavior, the direction and the strength of functional connectivity between specific brain regions were different for each motive. Moreover, the connectivity patterns were independent of the behavioral implications of the motives.

Science, this issue p. 1074; see also p. 1028

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