On altruism and kindness

Psychologists at the University of Sussex have confirmed that the warm glow of kindness is real, even when there’s nothing in it for you. In their study, published in NeuroImage, they undertook a major analysis of existing research showing the brain scans relating to over 1000 people making kind decisions. For the first time, they split the analysis between what happens in the brain when people act out of genuine altruism—where there’s nothing in it for them—and when they act with strategic kindness—when there is something to be gained as a consequence.

Many individual studies have hinted that generosity activates the reward network of the brain but this new study from Sussex is the first that brought these studies together, and then split the results into two types of kindness—altruistic and strategic. The Sussex scientists found that reward areas of the brain are more active—i.e. use up more oxygen—when people act with strategic kindness, when there is an opportunity for others to return the favour.

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Read also: Research paper

About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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